Satoshi Kon follows his meta homage to the movies, Millennium Actress, with a Christmas card to Tokyo’s homeless inspired by John Ford’s religious western 3 Godfathers. Three outcasts discover a newborn baby girl at a dumpsite and use a series of items (keys, photographs, business cards) to find her parents. Alcoholic Gin (Toru Emori), transvestite Hana (Yoshiaki Umegaki) and teenage runaway Miyuki (Aya Okamoto) keep close company but seem to know very little about each other. From one pit stop to the next, their savior tot facilitates a string of serendipitous, sometimes confusing reconnects: Gin reunites with the daughter he believes to have shamed; Hana (a dead ringer for Pixote‘s Marília Pêra) seeks guidance from his drag queen “Mother”; and Miyuki deals with her relationship to her dead cat. Kon’s Tokyo is a steely, unwelcoming beast, and its cruelty is all over the washed-out cartoon faces—when hope springs eternal, so does the film’s color palette (by film’s end, the city’s skyscrapers joy to the world). The straightforward Tokyo Godfathers comes alive via a series dreamlike passages that fuse hopeless pasts with wishful tomorrows and visual flourishes that evoke a certain divine intervention, but these moments are depressingly few and far between. The film’s homeless trio gets their own quickie backstory but they remain motivationally unchallenged (did the once-tubby Miyuki run away from home because her father did something bad to her cat?). The comic relief is screechy and grotesque, and because Kon refuses to give the screenplay’s endless coincidences a surrealist kick, the otherwise stark realism (how many cartoons have ever mentioned the word AIDS?) is undermined by O Henry mawkishness.
- Samuel Goldwyn Films
- 90 min
- Satoshi Kon
- Satoshi Kon, Keiko Nobumoto
- Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki, Aya Okamoto, Shozo Iizuka, Seizo Kato, Hiroya Ishimaru, Ryuji Saikachi, Yuhsaku Yara, Kyoko Terase
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