Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Japan | 2020 | 179 min
Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s final film of his prolific career culminates with Labyrinth of Cinema, a kaleidoscope of colourful writing, unique editing, and unconventional story structures that feel every bit its namesake.
The darkly comedic story follows three men who get trapped within a movie, battling through the narrative of a rotating gauntlet of war films where they are forced to fight, negotiate, and run for their lives, while experiencing battles, romantic trysts, and touching dramatic intersections. Poetry is reflected within the narrative as a metaphor for the men and their adventures as they strive to save the individuals they had sworn to protect, making this feature feel as much like a collection of poems as it does a film.
At a hearty 179 minutes, those who make the effort will find in it, an ode to cinema. Clad in powerful anti-war regalia, Labyrinth of Cinema ironically breaks many of the traditional structures within the films it has set out to celebrate. The duality of its narrative shines both a scathing and painful spotlight on the tragedy of Japanese history.
Like many poems, it is as much or more about the feeling as it is the message. Or perhaps the feeling is the message.