Features Live Action Movies

Spaghetti Code Love
(Supagetikodo Rabu,

Director – Takeshi Maruyama – 2021 – Japan – 96m


The intersecting lives of several young Tokyoites suggests they don’t know how to communicate with one another – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March

A young woman hangs out in an amusement arcade. Suddenly she’s aware of a young boy. Running, shouting, “why me”. He needs something. She steps into the breach and – for a moment, at least – provides it by holding him tight, a surrogate mother, an understanding human connection.

How far this understanding goes, it’s impossible to say. We never find out the source of the boy’s malaise, we never learn anything more about the woman who holds him in the arcade. However they have connected on some level – physically and emotionally. And that’s what this film seems to be about.

It’s basically a series of character study vignettes in which the characters occasionally cross paths which could well have been written or conceived as a half dozen of so short films. They connect with or become alienated from one another. It’s set in Tokyo with a title suggestive of complex networks and computer language with the catch-all ‘love’ tacked on the end.

Cocoro (Toko Miura from Drive My Car, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2021; Lesson Of Evil, Takashi Miike, 2012) is a busker with a guitar. Again, it’s not that clear whether she wants to be anything more than an amateur, but her performing clearly means a lot to her and she’s upset when former boyfriend Shingo (Hiroya Shimizu), walking with pretty, new girlfriend Natsu (Saya Kagawa), momentarily spots her and smirks for the briefest instance. Cocoro compares herself to Natsu and wonders if she herself would be more successful if she were pretty (not that she isn’t, but she has a low-self image) while Natsu asks herself whether life would be easier if she was less pretty and things we’re not handed to her on a plate.

UberEats delivery boy Amane (Kura Yuki) obsesses with an idol star who scarcely knows who he is, vowing to forget her once he’s made his fast-approaching 1,000thdelivery. His job is another picture of alienation, as he turns up at door which open slightly, take the delivery and then abruptly close.

Tsubasa (Nino Furuhata) is a photographer trying to break in to the Tokyo media world who finds himself on a shoot for hotshot Kurosu (Rikako Yagi) who lays into him purely because she’s a big star and can throw her weight around. She has successful parents and, according to various other crew members with whom our photographer hangs out, is “not that talented” and, indeed, “hated in the industry”.

In his personal life, Tsubara engages in online chats with an Instagram-using schoolgirl who suddenly turns up out of the blue to stay at his flat and sleep with him, something on which he’s none too keen.

Elsewhere, shy waitress Shizuku (Kaho Tsuchimura) gets messed around by difficult customers at work and would like to quit her job. That said, she’s happy to play the perfect housewife and cook for and generally fuss over her husband at home – only, as it turns out, he’s not her husband but someone else’s and may well leave her for his family.

Sakura (Xiangyu) and Kei (Yuzu Aoki) are boyfriend and girlfriend at high school. She is obsessed with death, he would like to grow old with her. Another young man gets frustrated as he tries to fill out a form to plan his life goals, eventually wearing a hole in the paper from rubbing out answers he’s regretting already.

Beyond a broad statement of alienation, director Maruyama doesn’t seem to know where to go with any of this, and after a while many of the characters start to get on your nerves. It works rather better as a slick exercise in parallel editing as the different stories are deftly kept moving along side by side. One imagines quite a bit may have changed in the process of editing the film and moving sequences and shots around to finalise their order. But while that’s a great strength, of itself it isn’t really enough.

You come away thinking that young Japanese have fallen into a mass identity crisis where they don’t know how to get on with one another. If that’s true, the awful thing is that there’s little here to make you care about the fact. Which is a pity, because the overall execution of the piece is lively and energetic.

Spaghetti Code Love plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022 between Friday, 4th February and Thursday, 31st March.


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