June 30, 2006

Princess Raccoon

Directed by Seijun Suzuki Starring Ziyi Zhang and Jô Odagiri
Reviewed by Martin Tsai
The Japanese studio system banished him for a decade for making such delirium-addled B-movie classics as Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill, but 82-year-old Seijun Suzuki is still as bizarre and irreverent as ever. Raccoon is the seemingly timeless star-crossed romance between a royal raccoon (Ziyi Zhang) and a human prince (Jô Odagiri of Bright Future), exiled for fear that he would supplant his father as the fairest of them all. With Suzuki at the wheel, it's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg with kimonos and psychedelia. The film is a pastiche of Japanese opera, Greek tragedy, and French new wave. Like a continuity editor's worst nightmare, its mise-en-scène alternates inexplicably between theatrical stage, naturalistic exterior, and scroll-painting-superimposed blue screen—sometimes all within the same scene! The musical repertoire likewise covers as many genres as a season of American Idol. Ultimately, Raccoon demands and rewards the total suspension of disbelief. Its incongruous storytelling style takes some getting used to, but beneath lies a mischievously droll and sweet fable that'll leave you with a beaming smile.
Reprinted from Seattle Weekly. © Copyright 2006 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.