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  • Benjamin May

The Room (1992) Review

An impassive hitman played by Akaji Maro crosses paths with an equally impassive real estate agent, and the two embark on a mostly silent journey across Tokyo to find him an apartment, in this cold, quiet and beautiful looking effort from Sion Sono. While there are some positive elements to the film, it takes a lot of patience to sit through, and occasionally one might feel that watching some paint dry would be a more eventful experience.

The film begins with a twelve minute scene of Maro sitting silently on a bench, and continues in that same muted vein for another hour and twenty minutes. When he joins up with the real estate agent played by Yoriko Dôguchi they share a few muffled words in monotone before hopping on a train, where the audience are treated to another prolonged silence. This becomes a pattern and the core of the narrative; whether he will find an apartment or not (and, for those of us in the audience, whether or not either of them will speak).

There are occasional bits of action, such as a flashback involving the most unexciting shoot-out ever put to film, or a moment of high tension and drama when Maro plays a cup and ball game after the real estate agent falls asleep. It is a quiet, slow burn that doesn't necessarily reward close attention. In fact, it can become downright infuriating waiting for something to happen; and you'll be doing a lot of waiting while watching this film.

On the other hand, Yûichirô Ohtsuka's black and white cinematography is stunning, both in terms of clarity and composition. One could be mistaken for thinking that they were watching a thriller shot by Henri Decaë or John Alton at times, such is the photographic sensibility at play. The costume design is also reminiscent of film noir, and it must be said that the movie certainly has a thick and stylish atmosphere. However, there is little that can be said of something that drips with style and has no substance but silence.

Many 'arthouse' films are criticized for being unnecessarily abstruse, or pretentious, and there is a temptation to level these accusations against 'The Room.' Really, there is very little plot or characterization anywhere in the film, and there is every chance that audiences will be left disillusioned by it all.

Viewers who are familiar with the work of Jean Pierre Melville- in particular 'Le Samouraï'- may better appreciate the movie, but it is nowhere near as interesting or as entertaining as that, or any other of his films for that matter. Melville's movies may have been highly stylized, emotionally cold even, but they still had substance and intriguing characters; something sadly missing from 'The Room.'


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