The 16th Japanese Film Festival opened in style in Sydney on Wednesday 14 November, with a sold-out screening of the Japanese domestic smash hit, Thermae Romae (テルマエ・ロマエ). This Japanese crowd-pleaser won over the Sydney audience also, with lots of laughs had by all. Congratulations to the Japan Film Festival for a great opening night. Review of the film after the jump.
Based on a manga series by Mari Yamasaki, Thermae Romae is centered around Ancient Roman architect Lucius Modestus (Hiroshi Abe) who is struggling with coming up with original ideas and concepts for his work. All this changes when Lucius is magically transported through a time-portal to present-day Japan (the how is explained later). He emerges from the water into a public bath house were he is astounded by the technology and brilliance that the “flat-faced clan” have on display.
Upon his return Lucius is inspired to create a modern bathhouse unlike Rome has ever seen. Lucius manages to make several trips to the present, where he gathers new ideas and also manages to befriend Mami (Aya Ueto), an inspiring manga artist, and a group of old men who frequent the Inn that Mami’s family runs. It’s a real clash of cultures/fish out of water tale, that only gets more absurd and outrageous as it goes on.
This film and it’s premise is utterly ridiculous, and they only way you can enjoy this is to surrender yourself to the madness and go along for the ride. While the gags get a little repetitive they are extremely funny and garner many laughs from the audience. From mistaking patterned toilet paper as important documents, to re-creating the bubbles in modern-day spas with slaves blowing into pipes, there are many amusing incidents and set-pieces throughout.
In a film where the story is a bit of a stretch, it’s the characters that made all the difference. Lucius is so earnest and not bad on the eye (*wink*), while Mami is quirky and relatable as the frustrated budding artist who is struggling to make it, and battling against her mother’s old-fashioned dreams for her. However, for me, it was the group of elderly Japanese men who really amused me. They laughed, they told crude jokes, but most of all they had huge hearts and were willing to do anything to save the day.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Hideki Takeuch
Writer(s): Shogo Muto (screenplay), Mari Yamazaki (original story)
Starring: Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto, Masachika Ichimura
Runtime: 108 minutes
Thermae Romae is screening as part of the 16th Japanese Film Festival. For information about this film and other films screening, please visit: http://www.japanesefilmfestival.net