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#Manhole 2023 Movie Review

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#Manhole 2023 Movie Review

Twenty-five years after the international premiere of his graduation work “Banquet of The Beasts” in the Panorama section, and twenty-two after “Hole in the Sky”, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri is back in Berlin with the thriller “#Manhole” which celebrates its international premiere in the Berlinale Special program. In this one-man suspense drama, a relatively simple story of an unfortunate incident evolves into a film rich with unexpected twists.

On the evening before his wedding day, Shunsuke (Yuto Nakajima) walks into into his own stag party he was unaware of. The mood is excellent: as congratulations pour in, so do drinks. A bit wobbly after a drink too many in a pub in Shibuya district, Shunsuke falls inside a manhole, and wakes up injured and unable to climb back to the street. To make things worse, his cellphone GPS stops working and a heavy rain starts falling making his situation more insufferable. Desperate to get away, he phones one of his lovers to help him out, but when she fails to find him, he makes a fake account on ‘pecker’ declaring himself as a pretty girl in trouble. Girls in distress, as he explains to his caller, are more likely to be rescued. True enough, a whole bunch of men gets eager to find the culprit who did this to the poor thing, while the other compete who will come first to ‘her’ rescue.

“#Manhole” comes almost a year after Lukas Rinker’s claustophobic comedy “Holy Shit!” completely set up in a Toi Toi Dixi toilett, also with a man trapped inside of a different death trap. But if Rinker strikes light tones and uses humour to stage the revenge, Kazuyoshi’s scriptwriter Michitaka Okada plunges into the depths of one man’s damaged psyche, and all evil that ensues from his ill-considered actions.

Michitaka does a fabulous thing of introducing steadily new elements of the kind that would cause a fit of laughter in a classical comedy, if he weren’t keeping the tone dryly stern. None of the things happening to the groom to be is funny, although he will be literally swimming in a bubble bath, experiencing (and surviving) a bizarre cartoon-like explosion, and having to deal with a bunch of nutters discussing his situation online. Towards the second half of the movie, the atmosphere completely changes when the genre takes over the straightforwardly built drama thriller, with nods to Dario Argento’s “Giallo” (2009) and Gary A. Sherman’s “Dead & Buried” (1981). Kazuyoshi also quotes Oliver Stone’s “U Turn” (1997) and “Talk Radio” as great sources of inspiration, the latter in respect to communication between the radio DJ and the listeners, and content-wise Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “The Face of Another” (1966).

Psychological transformation is not the only one Shunsuke is going through, as it turns out that he isn’t who he claims to be, and that there isn’t anything accidental about his fall in the manhole. The pop star Yuto Nakajima of the boy band Hey!Say!JUMP is convincingly playing a psychopath turned victim, proving that he had outgrown the roles in popular television series. Also the female lead Mai Kudo is played by a (former) pop star – Nao Minakami from the band fripSide. Present in the film mainly as the voice of Shunsuke’s phone-caller until the film’s last ten minutes, she delivers a forceful performance as a woman seeking revenge for an unpunished murder, giving “#Manhole” a final touch.

The cinematographer Yuta Tsukinaga uses the maximum out of a narrow space with great limitations. The dirt covered, sinister hole becomes a dynamic stage with discrete camera movement attentive to Shunsuke’s actions. The blueish greyness of the space is enliven through the contrasting light coming from the cell phone’s display, which is the only connection to the outside world and the tool for escape. It is also serves as a comment on the dependence on social networks, and their manipulative and treacherous power. Once the users get into a massive trance over something, there is no stopping. Brilliantly accompanying the smoothly changing rhythm is Takuma Watanabe’s hair-raising original score (behind the music of Yukiko Sode’s “Aristocrats”, 2021).

#Manhole 2023 Movie Review