weekend bluesKenji Uchida travelled to America’s San Fransisco State University to study filmmaking before returning to Japan and making this, his debut film, Weekend Blues (ウィーク エンド ブルース) which later went on to claim two awards at the prestigious Pia Film Festival for independent films earning him the scholarship which enabled his next film, A Stranger of Mine. However, Uchida’s film, though resolutely his own, individual creation, plays much more like the Japanese indie movies of the time and particularly those of the similarly considered, if drier, Nobuhiro Yamashita than it does to late 20th century American indie or the mumble core movement.

As in his later work, Uchida builds around a finely constructed farce only this time the central conceit is a bout of amnesia suffered by the central character, Kensuke, who is a depressed salaryman still reeling from his ex-fiancé’s sudden exit from his life. He takes solace in his one solid relationship – that with his committed slacker friend, the similarly named Kenji. However, on visiting Kenji’s apartment one Friday night he discovers Kenji has gone and got himself a girlfriend. Kensuke gets extremely drunk and also tries some of the weird drugs that Kenji has got from somewhere or other before accompanying Kenji’s new squeeze, Ayumi, on her way home.

That’s the last thing Kensuke remembers before waking up in a faraway town. On returning to Kenji’s flat he’s shocked to learn it’s actually Sunday already and he has absolutely no idea what’s been going on for the past 48 hours.

Jumping to the natural conclusion that the drugs are to blame, the two Kens descend on the dealer who seems to be some kind of man scientist researching a formula to give the “wimpy” men of today some of their caveman swagger back. Ironically named “samurai” the drugs themselves are more of a Mcguffin but provide a key into this world of nervous, unambitious, soon to be middle-aged men who’ve each had their girlfriends poached from under their noses by the more socially successful. A parade of jilted lovers passes by until we reach the more psychotic set who’ve decided to embrace some decidedly dodgy methods in order to ensure they won’t be humiliated and run out on ever again.

Uchida also adds another level to the amnesia based shenanigans with a sideline in internet dating where everybody is lying to everyone and presenting version of themselves that’s very much idealised. Kenji has told his prospective girlfriend that he’s a successful high earner despite the fact he doesn’t actually have a job at all, but at least his interest in the new woman has persuaded him to try and get back into the employment market so his full scale frauds can be demoted to gentle half-truths before things (hopefully) start to get more serious. In turn, his new lady love, Ayumi, may not be all she seems either.

Kensuke’s larger philosophy lies in a need to be needed. Now that his fiancée has left him, discovers he was no longer necessary to her anymore, Kenji feels himself a man without purpose and the prospect of simply continuing like this for another fifty years is beginning to frighten him. Again there’s a wider question here about interconnectedness (which is also the heart of any farce) in the supposedly “connected” world in which you can pick up a true love fantasy by lying about yourself on the internet – even if the mutual misrepresentations end up spinning their own pretty web of deceit in their own sweet time

Uchida’s first film is a necessarily low budget, indie effort but makes no apologies for itself or claims of being anything more than it is. That said, the performances are universally strong and the direction often interesting even given the obvious budgetary constraints. A very modern kind of farce which also looks back the salaryman comedies of the ‘60s, Weekend Blues is a good indication of Uchida’s future direction whilst also succeeding as an enjoyably off the wall comedy in its own right.


 

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