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  • Benjamin May

Monday (2000) Review

Takagi is just an average salaryman toiling away in a dead-end job. One fateful Monday, he awakens in a strange hotel room. He has no memory of how he got there. Slowly, he begins to piece together the journey that brought him to the hotel. Takagi discovers he spent the preceding weekend on a violent, absurdist outing as bizarre as it is entertaining. The craziest part: it's not even close to being over yet.

Sabu's 'Monday' is a delightful, off-beat comedy-thriller that plays like Kafka meets Kitano. The relatively simple story- Takagi gets drunk and forgets his weekend- is one of unexpected existentialist depth. The film proceeds as if part of a waking nightmare, where one can't be sure what is really happening and what is imagined, escalating to a fever-pitch of violence and insanity. Sabu's adoption of a non-linear narrative full of flashbacks and alcohol-fuelled hallucinogenic sequences adds to this feeling of heightened unreality. Takagi's is a trip that makes William Lee's in 'Naked Lunch' look positively mundane (particularly near its' conclusion).

The cinematography from Kazuto Sato (going under the name Kazuhiko Sato at the time) is striking work that has a punk-like feel to it. His composition and framing under Sabu's direction is irregular and interesting, making for some memorable shots that are very Lynchian in style. In the latter half of the film, things get very frenetic, and Kumio Onaga's tight editing keeps 'Monday' from getting too out of hand. That said, the sudden tonal shift from dark, existentialist comedy to over-the-top, violent horror in the hindmost part of the film could have been handled in more subtle a manner.

Kenichiro Shibuya's score is unsettlingly funky, juxtaposed effectively with 'Monday's eccentric, occasionally incongruous visuals. His usage of tracks by Tatsuya Oe (better known as Captain Funk) is particularly memorable. Takagi's dance scene in a Yakuza's club is one of the most disconcerting and unforgettable of recent years, utilizing Oe's 'Twist & Shout' to great effect.

Tomoyuki Maruo's production design must also be mentioned, as it is economic, stylish work that makes a lot out of very little. The sets are decorated in an understated manner, just as the costumes are designed in a minimalist fashion. It is impressive work that makes for another significant entry in Maruo's filmography.

Shin'ichi Tsutsumi has starred in at least six of Sabu's films over the years, most recently in 'My Blood & Bones in a Flowing Galaxy' from 2020. 'Monday' may be their finest collaboration, with Tsutsumi delivering a startlingly layered and highly entertaining performance as Takagi. Bordering on delirium borne from alcoholism, Takagi is an intense and wacky character that requires the actor playing him be willing to go to some strange places, performance-wise. Tsutsumi proves to be the right man for the job, bringing to the role levity, bravery and emotional range. It is a powerful piece of acting that will be remembered fondly by any who see 'Monday.'

The supporting cast is filled with talented actors, including the late Ren Ôsugi and the great Susumu Terajima. Though they all have relatively little to do, everyone performs admirably, with a couple being particularly memorable. Akira Yamamoto stars as a dispirited Yakuza boss who befriends Takagi and he has a commanding, introverted screen presence that suits the character most aptly. Yasuko Matsuyuki stars as the Yakuza's moll, and has similar presence that says much without her having to utter a word.

Sabu's 'Monday' is a strange, fun film that is an existential trip through a nightmarish landscape of violence and drunkenness. Unpredictable, often hilarious and occasionally too frantic for its own good, the film is anything but ordinary. Featuring a compelling lead performance from Shin'ichi Tsutsumi and a great score from Kenichiro Shibuya, it's a very memorable and outlandish piece of work. In short- to paraphrase The Bangles- Sabu's film is a lot more than just another manic 'Monday.'


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