Edmund Yeo isn’t a detached figure in the Japanese film world. But it is surprising that it has taken him this long to create a feature film entirely in the Japanese language.
Yeo’s inventive approach to ‘Kingyo’ a Tokyo-set short film was released nationally in 2009. Since then, his work has garnered a warm and enthusiastic reception in both Japan and its region.
With his latest film ‘Moonlight Shadow’, Yeo’s delivery of this feature film has been his most tenacious and ordinary work to date. Ordinary may not entirely mean typical. But perhaps by placing conventionality at the rear, it may be his first that feels like it was made for a global audience setting the Tokyo International Film Festival aside.
Ordinary brings forth the desolation focused on the insufferable mood of two deaths, which remains a consistent virtue throughout the film.
The story is based on a 1988 short story by Banana Yoshimoto, a name that has so significantly brought Japanese literature to the fore in the 80s, albeit in its short circumstances. The film isn’t much of retribution to the story after its revised adaptation to film. Losing some of its enigmatic elements that gripped the literature world in the beginning.
Young lovers Satsuki (Nana Komatsu) and Hitoshi (Hio Miyazawa) first meet at night on the banks of a river and quickly fall into an intimate relationship. Hitoshi introduces his new girl to his quirky younger brother, Hiiragi (Himi Sato), and the latter’s girlfriend, Yumiko (Nana Nakahara), who’s obsessed with a paranormal phenomenon that allows people to reconvene with the dead — the “moonlight shadow” of the title. The happy moments were abruptly halted when Hitoshi and Yumiko are killed in a traffic accident.
Taiwan-based French-born Vietnamese composer TÔN THẤT An created a haunting score alongside Yeo’s dream-like elements. Letting the seductive aesthetics do most of the talking, the most charming elements takes place during the night or at the light of dawn, brought forth ever so naturally by Yeo’s long-term collaborator and cinematographer Kong Pahurak.
Adhering to some of Japan’s most stylish indie elements, the protracted and lengthy story-telling almost at the edge of boredom cannot be more resolutely completed without the Komatsu. It is her captivating aura and fierce eyes that kept us all glued to the screen. Just like wine, its intensity was felt long after the credits rolled.
Before Moonlight Shadow, Yeo returned to the Tokyo Film Festival with Malu after winning best director with Aqerat. A hallmark of Yeo’s films is the cinematography, often dreamlike as though seen through the lens of memories coloured by emotions.
Yeo is known for his producer and writer’s role in the films: We, the Dead (2017), Liu Lian Wang Fan (2014), Inhalation (2010), and Chicken Rice Mystery (2008).