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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Frog Song
Frog Song
Rykodisc // Unrated // November 13, 2007
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted December 18, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Akeimi gets into a fight with her boyfriend. After she finds out he has been cheating, she bonks him over the head with a liquor bottle and wanders around, eventually ending up in library devoted to manga where she meets Kyoko. Initially the two tussle but soon make nice, an economic as well as emotional convenience. Kyoko gives Akemi a place to stay, an a ear for her lovelorn bitterness, and an odd mentor of independence. Odd, because Kyoko supports herself as a prostitute, coldly shaking up with a number of sugar daddies while she dreams of making it as a manga artist.

I know saying that you watch Japanese pink cinema from a cineaste's point of view is like saying you read Playboy for the articles, but in my case it is true. There aren't many modern sex film genres that are known to sprout serious-minded directors, especially in the US where softcore sex films are relegated to whatever stilted, silicone, bump and grind number you can find on Cinemax or Showtime at 3 AM. But, while they are in the definite minority and most Japanese pink films are your standard exploitative-titillation numbers, the genre has still spawned and found legitimate higher-minded dabblers like Sogo Ishii, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Tatsumi Kumashiro, Koji Wakamatsu, Mitsuru Meiki, and Tetsuji Takechi.

Such is the case here. Frog Song (2005) may be labeled as a pink film, and it may have a steady amount of evenly spaced sexual scenes, but the film is far from exploitative. Even in regards to being sexually gratifying, one isn't likely to find much arousal in the brief, simply staged sex scenes.

If anything, in terms minimal style and offbeat humor, I'd say Frog Song director Shinji Imaoka seems to be channeling early Jim Jarmusch. This is an extremely gentle two character piece, more about the simple rhythms of life and friendship, particularly female friendship, two girls who take too long to realize that their connections (and lack thereof) with men puts a wedge between their beautiful bond. There is a real naturalism to the tone and the actresses performances. Imaoka lets scenes unfold without much fuss, no drama hysterics, and technically the shots are kept very basic, locked camera, wide, every scene usually filmed from no more than an angle or two, maybe three at its most extravagant.

The DVD: Salvation films/Sacrament.

Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. Not the greatest source, but one has to be accommodating to the genre. It is simply one that is not aimed at high end displays. Overall DV definitions are on the low end. Viewers will note the occasional (and very odd) yellow-greenish artifact spot or some aliasing on the image, but otherwise it is clean.

Sound: Dolby 2.0 Stereo. Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Basic mix. Nothing Fancy. Minor background noise is apparent from time to time, as well as some obvious overdubbing, the product of a limited production no doubt, so I wont fault the transfer.

Extras: Stills. --- Pink Cinema Intro (text essay). --- "Japanese Box," short Film (11:25). An odd extra, basically a murky, artefact ridden, muddled, J-horror riff by director Tobias Tubbel. I couldn't even make much sense of it becasue the audio and image was poor. --- Trailers. --- Promo teaser for the book ‟Blood & Dishonor.‟

Conclusion: Frog Song is a very cute bit of indie cinema. At its core you'll find a genial film with uncomplicated storytelling and none of the salaciousness that the pink genre is primarily associated with. The DVD presentation is pretty limited and the film is very brief (65 mins). I'd suggest a purchase for hardcore foreign/Asian cinema fans and a rental for the rest.

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