iSugio

I Have to Buy New Shoes – Review

by Miguel Douglas

@isugoi

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Freelance writer Aoi Teshigahara lives in Paris, France. Sen Yagami is a photographer who travels to Paris due to his younger sister Suzume’s insistence that he is her “lucky charm” when it comes to her relationships. Over the next three days, Aoi Teshigahara and Sen Yagami unexpectedly meet one another and fall in love. Meanwhile, Suzume meets her boyfriend Kango, whom they have been in a long distance relationship.

Having directed over a dozen Japanese television drama series, Eriko Kitagawa is a director that one could still consider relatively new to the world of cinema. Having only directed one other film – the delightfully charming Halfway (2009), a film that was also co-produced by accomplished director Shunji Iwai – Kitagawa returns once again with I Have to Buy New Shoes, a film written and directed by Kitagawa. It is film that further showcases her talent as one of the finer contemporary Japanese female directors, but is her creativity as a writer waning?

Focusing on a wishful fling between two individuals who differ greatly in both age and life pathways, Kitagawa is careful in bringing about a romantic tale that remains quite innocent in what it chooses to portray between the two lead characters of Aoi and Sen. The film is seemingly more centered on the subtle emotions that are exchanged more so than any physical representation of their attraction to one another, so those expecting explicit sexual tensions to arise will certainly not find it here. It is a film more akin to a fairy tale in its presentation because of this approach and its material, and given the location of the film being that of Paris, the film’s locale is a major contributing factor to establishing the overall mood of the film.

Kitagawa’s tradition of presenting simplistic yet endearing narratives relying on the innocence of a relationship – as especially seen in her previous film Halfway – remains a focal point here once again. Quite similar to Shunji Iwai, a director who has co-produced all of her films thus far, Kitagawa establishes a very naturalistic, almost dreamlike tone within the film that works out beautifully in conveying the underlying emotions that transpire between the lead two characters. Kitagawa certainly emphasizes these emotions through the intimate, long uninterrupted scenes shared between Aoi and Sen, with Miho Nakayama and Osamu Mukai each playing their respective parts very well. Much of the film showcases the interaction between these two characters as they traverse the beautiful monuments and streets of Paris, soaking in the visual experience just as much as we the viewers.

It is all very pleasing and refreshing to say the least, and save for a rather unnecessary subplot regarding Sen’s younger sister and her boyfriend that seems somewhat out of place, the film offers a joyous venture regarding two individuals longing for a sense of finding that significant other in their lives. Kitagawa has certainly taken a thing or two from Iwai, with many instances within the film appearing quite reflective upon that of a Iwai film, but I Have to Buy New Shoes does find Kitagawa positioning herself as an adequate screenplay writer and director, a combination that not many other individuals can succeed at. And while Kitagawa is covering familiar territory here, she does a great job of eliciting the film’s environment as a complementary facet of the two leads characters being foreigners in a strange land and trying to connect to one another. It is something we have seen before, but Kitagawa handles it with a sense of grace, exploring their fleeting relationship similar to the thought of one’s amusing vacation coming to an end.

It could also be said that the film is a little too similar to the likes of Kitagawa’s previous film Halfway in regards to its narrative structure and focus on two individuals in love, but those comparisons are something that can not simply be avoided. As a protege to Iwai, Kitagawa is bound to share many qualities and directorial approaches with that of him, so it is no surprise to see that she does adopt many of his cinematography techniques and framing traits. It is not necessarily a negative aspect of the film, but one could easily mistake a film such as this as an Iwai film at first glance. Kitagawa does have a knack for developing great dialogue though, with this film furthering her adeptness at it more so than anything else. Those looking for a quiet, contemplative film in the vein of Iwai’s films will certainly enjoy what I Have to Buy New Shoes has to offer tough, even if it is just a little too similar to the formerly mentioned director’s works.

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Author: Miguel Douglas

As an avid viewer of both Japanese animation and cinema for more than a decade now, Miguel is primarily concerned with establishing a critical look into both mediums as legitimate forms of artistic, cultural, and societal understanding. Never one to simply look at a film or series based solely on superficiality, Miguel has dedicated himself towards bringing awareness to Asian entertainment and its various facets.

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