Thursday, October 3, 2013

Movie Appraisal: Long Dream (Nagai yume) (長い夢) (2000)

Well, I just watched this interesting, obscure little television movie based off of a Junji Ito manga. Yes, another one of those.While I haven't done a movie based off of Junji Ito's work in a while, I am always looking to find some. It's a weird fascination I have with these movies and the quality (or lack thereof) within them. While most of these movies have been basically horrid, there has been a great deal of room for these to be somewhat quality productions. Anyway, while I truly do like Junji Ito's manga, I am not so fond of the movies surrounding his stuff. They're usually all kinds of bad. But... but this one, Long Dream, is an exception with some caveats.

First off, this is a surprisingly good adaptation of the manga of the same name. The stories are both really good, and the mimicking of make-up and effects actually is incredibly well done, something I was not at all expecting. The facial details of those who have undergone the titular long dream for long periods of time are spot on with the manga, so much so that I was incredibly impressed, especially seeing this had to have had a television movie budget considering the quality of filming.

The quality is all over the place. It's never scary, but does feel interesting throughout. The shots are mostly very simple, and the camera used is obviously not the best one available. The sound effects are also very loud at times, so loud as to be distracting. And the acting ranges from subtle and well done to over-the-top and incredibly hammy. So, the tone is really inconsistent.

The adaptation is mostly very faithful to the manga, but since the story of the manga ends about halfway through this movie, about a half hour of original material is added. This mostly involves Dr. Kuroda's dead girlfriend Kana. It's done decently, but doesn't really fit into the overall tone. The only true "dream" shots involve Kana as well, making those shots almost artistic compared to the rest of the film.

Mokuoda, the man who initially has the long dreams (which are exactly as they sound, dreams that sometimes are centuries long), is fairly well done as well, with a good performance. The gravity of the dreams truly seems to weigh him down. I enjoyed watching him undergo the stressful worries of coming to terms with his inevitable fate of dreaming an eternal dream.

Mami, the woman who is exposed to the brain crystals of Mokuoda one he has withered into dust, is kind of a nonentity. She can scream all right, I guess, but her character is largely forgotten int he background of the more original content with the two doctors. I kind of wish I would have seen her in make-up as well, maybe undergoing the same stresses that Mokuoda went through, but no. Her story just kind of peters out eventually.

The doctors, Yamauchi and Kuroda, are really the centerpieces of the movie. Yamauchi especially acts incredibly well. He is the subtle actor I was hinting at above. Kuroda is the more over-the-top one. They simultaneously make the plot less interesting and move it along. I'm much less interested in their original stories of falling in love with patients or whatever and much more interested in the long dreamers. That whole concept is truly fascinating to me, which is why I liked the original, very short, manga story.

I will say that if you watch about a half hour of this movie, until it is revealed that Dr. Kuroda has injected Mami with Mokuoda's brain crystals and she has begun the long dream process, you will probably be completely satisfied, fan of Junji Ito or not. Again, it's nothing truly special, but it works as an interesting Twilight Zone type of plot. The second half hour just adds a lot of uninteresting and somewhat boring material. And the ending is simply silly. And you will probably see it coming from a mile away as well.

I can't really recommend this movie. It's simply not scary, and at only less than an hour long, it's really not worth the effort to track down. Reading the manga is a much better use of your time and energy. While I think it's perfectly serviceable as a kind of silly horror movie, it also doesn't really do anything interesting or new besides the plot. Hell, I found myself bored out of my mind for most of the second half of the movie. And the gore of the movie is only in the second half. Why it's there, I don't know, but it would have been better if it had been left out.

While it's one of the better adaptations of Junji Ito's works, it's only average at best.

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