The recent Eros and Three…Extremes, occupy the “failed attempt” end of the tripartite omnibus canon, so it’s a pleasant surprise to report that Tokyo!, featuring the talents of fabulists Michel Gondry, Bong Joon-ho, and the too-long-absent Leos Carax proves positive that the logic behind these enterprises isn’t necessarily fallacious—that asking a trio of auteurs to variate around a theme can result in a film bigger than the sum of its individual segments. For all the misconceived episodes from famous auteurs (Soderbergh’s clunker in Eros, the truly abhorrent Park Chan-wook bit in Three…Extremes) and subsequent pitting and ranking of individual parts against each other to the detriment of the whole, sometimes, on rare occasions, the ends do justify the means.
Tokyo!, as you might expect given the exclamation point, is a tribute to the titular metropolis, but given the talent involved, “tribute” should remain loosely defined. The directors are a Korean, a French expat (is Gondry an American filmmaker by this point?), and a French recluse, but even given the group’s penchant for wanly surrealist tones that recall the city’s most famous contemporary literary avatar, Haruki Murakami, their observations about Tokyo’s urban scale, anomie, and the like aren’t exactly headline news. The commentary (save Carax’s grubby terroristic attack on Japanese xenophobia) is expected, but what makes Tokyo! worthwhile is the chance to witness three gifted directors attempting commissioned work and churning out enjoyable, well-crafted films that encapsulate in miniature what made them singular talents in the first place. No small feat.