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Robinson's Garden

Facets Video // Unrated // September 25, 2007
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted September 1, 2007 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Oh, for the days of Antonioni, when films about alienation and the interplay of nature and man's futile attempts to overcome it at least made a little sense along the way. This 1987 Japanese film by director Masashi Yamamoto seems on the verge of actually saying something relevant several times throughout its rambling two hour playing time, but those moments evaporate in strange tangential dead-end storylines and bizarre dialogue sequences that feature one non sequitur after another.



As any fan of anime will tell you, the Japanese have a love/hate relationship with their technologies and their cities. Robinson's Garden frequently feels like a live-action precursor to a lot of anime's themes, though it is not well realized enough to even rise to a cartoon level.



One must assume that alot of the disorientation in the film is intentional, an apt metaphor for its displaced heroine stuck in the confines of a crowded city who discovers a verdant semi-paradise. What doesn't make sense are the absurd subplots (if that is even the right term--most of these are mere moments on-screen), like the out-of-nowhere Transcendental Meditation sequence ending in a violent beating and the heroine's vomiting. No, I'm not making that up, though I kind of wish I were.



Yamamoto has craft, there's no mistaking it. Several shots are breathtaking and play to his supposed theme brilliantly: when the heroine winds up a toy bird in a cage and it begins chirping beautifully, and the camera slowly pans back to reveal her in a cityscape underneath a gorgeous crescent moon, Yamamoto encapsulates the dichotomy of nature and man's superstructures, along with his heroine's yearnings to break free, stunningly. Unfortunately, that's about a 15 second shot in an otherwise frequently incomprehensible jumble.




The DVD


Video:

The unenhanced 1.78:1 image did not play well on my system (Sharp Aquos LCD HDTV with a high-end Sony DVD player). There were several artifacts throughout the film, including moire patterns on such unexpected items like window sills and some foliage.




Sound:

A generic stereo soundtrack is provided, with English subtitles.




Extras:

No extras on this DVD.




Final Thoughts:

This may be a cult item for some, but for the vast majority of film enthusiasts, it's going to be a massive bore and major head-scratcher. Skip it unless you're a fan of the director.



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