Review for Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!
Who doesn’t love a good double dip? Film fans went crazy when the VHS era passed onto the DVD era, seizing the opportunities afforded by a more compact, yet more robust medium. It’s not been quite as hectic with the shift to HD and higher resolutions, as for one thing, the disc formats have identical form factors when it comes to storage, and the leap in image and audio quality, while significant, is not quite the leap from VHS to DVD. That enthusiasm has been further diluted by the advent of the streaming services, with most mainstream cinema and TV available at the push of a button, leaving plenty of room on our shelves for other things. That’s except for the niches, independent and world cinema, which don’t quite achieve the demographics the big streaming services require as a minimum. These distributors have to focus on physical media, and while they can keep up with the Joneses when it comes to the cutting edge of home cinema formats, they are less able to go wholesale through their back catalogues and upgrade the lot; sometimes the licenses have expired, sometimes the source material isn’t there.
Over the first eight years of their existence, Third Window Films released dozens of quirky, memorable, and must-own titles on DVD, and when Blu-ray finally became viable for them, they kicked things off by revisiting two of their most classic DVD titles on new BD, Kamikaze Girls and Memories of Matsuko. Yet since then, when it comes to back catalogue titles on Blu-ray, they’ve had far greater success with other companies’ lapsed licenses. The Shinya Tsukamoto filmography has had its HD debut thanks to TWF, as well as plenty of classic Takeshi Kitano movies. Yet when it comes to films that they have previously released, they’ve been far more circumspect, revisiting only Love Exposure, Underwater Love, and Fish Story. When I look at those early TWF DVDs.., well, I’d love most any of them in high definition. Which brings us to the new high definition release of Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers!
Funuke was one of the worst DVDs that Third Window Films released. Not the film mind, it was the technical aspects of the disc that let the side down, which makes it the perfect candidate for a Blu-ray upgrade. On DVD, the film had a letterbox, NTSC-PAL standards conversion, with burnt in subtitles; barely good enough for the CRT TVs of the time, but not so pleasant on modern HD panels. It was absent extra features aside from a trailer reel, and it was all on a rather compressed, single layer disc. So while I would love some Satoshi Miki HD love, you can see why getting this film up to snuff was a higher priority.
The tragic loss of their parents in a traffic accident brings a family back together again, but it’s a far from pleasant reunion. Sisters Kiyomi and Sumiko became stepsisters to Shinji when their parents remarried, although life in a dead-end country town with no prospects wasn’t easy. Sumiko has always dreamed of being an actress, and returning home for the funeral of her parents, means taking a break from those dreams and leaving Tokyo. It becomes worse when she learns that with the death of her parents, her allowance will dry up as well, and she may as well get used to living back at home. And home isn’t the best place for Sumiko to be. Shinji has married since she left, but his marriage to Machiko is a loveless and abusive one. Machiko is cheerful, bright, bubbly, and has a distinct lack of social skills, and dotes on Shinji despite how he treats her.
The biggest problem is that Sumiko hates Kiyomi and the first thing she does when she gets back home is to start tormenting her again. She has good reason too, as four years previously, Kiyomi made a manga comic, based on her sister’s desperate need to become an actress, got it published and even won a prize. In a small town like theirs, everyone read the manga, and the humiliation was too much to bear. Sumiko has blamed that manga ever since for her lack of success as an actress. Now with the four living under the same roof, tempers fraying, tensions rising and the torture of one sister by another resuming, Kiyomi is tempted to pick up the pencil once more. But Sumiko’s best chance to hit the big time arrives when she begins to correspond with a famous director.
Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p presentation on this disc, with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese and with optional English subtitles. The image quality is good enough for me to be critical about the original source. The transfer is clear and sharp, with rich, vivid colours (except for the sepia tinged flashbacks) and strong detail. Kiyomi’s manga certainly looks more striking in HD. But I do get the sense that the film was digitally shot, certainly when it comes to the occasional softness, the less than impressive black levels and dark detail, although the blown highlights seem to be a creative choice. The audio is solid, the dialogue is clear, and the stereo gives the film a sense of space. There are a couple of minor typos in the subtitles, missing indefinite articles, an absence of pluralisation, but they are accurately timed and flow well otherwise.
Following a disclaimer regarding the SD quality of the extras, the disc boots to an animated menu. And we do indeed have extra features this time.
The Making Of documentary lasts 25:39.
There are 3:15 of Deleted Scenes
Sumika Wago’s School Play Video lasts 2:47.
Sumika Wago’s TV Appearance lasts 0:51.
The latter two are those clips that we see in the film, show here in full screen and unadulterated.
Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers may not be the catchiest of titles, but it’s certainly a catchy movie, a wonderfully black comedy that takes you into the most dysfunctional of families, at their darkest moment of grief, then shocks, surprises, and even elicits some whole-hearted belly laughs. It’s also one of those films where the delight is in watching the plot unfold, and I’m loath to elaborate on what I have already related in the plot summary.
It’s the characters that are so compelling in this film. We have Sumiko, played with brilliance by Eriko Sato. Here she is the petulant, diva, wannabe actress who believes that the world should revolve around her, and even manages to make it do so. She apparently delights in tormenting her sister Kiyomi, can twist her stepbrother Shinji around her little finger, and is quickly abusing her sister-in-law Machiko’s hospitality when it becomes clear that Machiko isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Shinji shows the greatest signs of being trapped by circumstance. While Sumiko escaped to the city to pursue her dreams, he’s stuck in the country, running the household now that their parents are dead, working as a charcoal burner. He takes care of Kiyomi as a younger sister, but despite trying to put his foot down with Sumiko when it comes to the family’s sudden lack of finance, and dealing with his late father’s debts, he still folds to Sumiko’s every whim. He winds up taking his frustration out on Machiko who he married dutifully as a son respecting the wishes of his elders, but who in fact he can’t stand. Machiko on the other hand is an orphan who has finally found a family, and while she may not be too smart, she has a boundless enthusiasm and cheerfulness. All the while, her frustration at her husband’s refusal to fulfil her conjugal needs keeps increasing.
And then there is Kiyomi, who is the antithesis of the extrovert and loud Sumiko. She’s mousy, introverted, and spends most of her time in her room. The one talent she has is for drawing manga, but it was drawing manga four years previously that almost tore the family apart. She’s been nursing guilty feelings ever since, not helped by a lack of forgiveness from her sister. It quickly becomes clear that she’s torn between railing against her sister’s torment, and feeling it a justified punishment for her previous transgressions. The fun is in watching this family combust, as the tensions rise and the past is revealed. There is also a wonderful examination of country life, and the strain it places of people who long to escape it. There is some beautiful scenery in this film, a rural idyll full of mountains and greenery, light years away from the city megalopolises that usually serve as settings for Japanese films.
Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers is a delightful gem. It’s a delicious dark comedy, surprising, shocking, entertaining and utterly engaging. It does take a while to get going though, and I must admit I was tempted to let my gaze drift towards the clock in the first half of the film. But it rewards the slow and steady build up and the careful character development, with a supremely satisfying conclusion.
This Blu-ray is one of those essential double-dips, originally the sort that collectors had going from VHS to DVD. The quality upgrade from the old DVD to this new Blu-ray is that drastic, and it’s like watching the film for the first time, all over again. It’s rare that a format switch warrants up-rating the film, but the viewing experience with Funuke: Show Some Love, You Losers is so much more satisfying that the film is improved, or rather is finally presented as it should have been to begin with.