Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (ドロステのはてで僕ら, Junta Yamaguchi, 2020)

If you had the opportunity to talk to your future or past self, what would you want to say to them? There are many advantages to having some knowledge of things still to come, finding out next week’s winning lottery numbers for example or who’s going to win the Grand National, but on the other hand mightn’t you start to feel as if your life has no freedom or purpose if you find yourself compelled to do exactly as your future self advised? That’s something the future-hating hero of Junta Yamaguchi’s farcical time travel comedy Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (ドロステのはてで僕ら, Droste no Hate de Bokura) can’t help feeling as he finds himself trapped in an infinite loop of communication with the him from two minutes previously. 

Granted, getting knowledge of what’s going to happen in two minutes is not actually that useful. Cafe assistant Aya (Riko Fujitani) makes a point of asking her future self what the next era is going to be after Reiwa ends forgetting that it is almost certainly still Reiwa in two minutes’ time. Then again, it could help with very short term decisions such as whether or not to confess your feelings to a crush or which spots to scratch on your scratch card to win the best prizes, but maybe knowing only the immediate consequences of your actions isn’t very helpful either. Let’s say your future self finds a bunch of money and tells you to go get it, only the money belonged to gangsters and now you have a big problem with a two-minute head start. And then, can you really trust your future self? Maybe they aren’t being completely honest with you for reasons you may well understand in two minutes’ time. In any case, maybe you have better things to do than be struck in an infinite dialogue loop parroting back what you’ve just been told by your future self to your past self. Maybe you should learn to live in the moment. 

That’s something cafe owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) has had trouble doing, later confessing that he hates the idea of knowing what lies ahead largely because he over invested in conspiracy theories and prophesies about the end of the world and therefore failed to plan very much for his future. His friends, however, are childishly excited by the discovery that his upstairs TV is linked to the downstairs with a two-minute delay, realising they can extend its range through the “Droste” effect to send themselves messages from further into the future, but then again how long do they really want to keep all this up slavishly reenacting the same conversations afraid of deviating from the original path lest they create a time paradox or provoke some other kind of disaster. They find themselves trapped in the middle as if the present no longer existed and had become merely a conduit between an extremely near future and very recent past. 

Yamaguchi captures their farcical dilemma with an ironic immediacy, filming with an elaborate one shot conceit that adds to the sense of wonder as the gang find themselves continually running upstairs and down to talk to themselves from either side of the time divide. The uncanny absurdity is the film’s greatest asset, placing this extremely bizarre scientific anomaly in the centre of an ordinary hipster cafe run by a guy who really wants to be a musician and is too shy to ask out the girl who works in the hairdresser’s next-door (Aki Asakura). By the time a pair of strange-looking gentlemen turn up claiming to be from the time travel police insisting that the guys stop all this nonsense before they cause a serious problem in the space time continuum you might come to sympathise with Kato’s resentment in feeling as if the future is controlling him but then there are always unexpected ways to rebel against fate and who knows, maybe your romantic destiny will work out after all with a little old-fashioned conversation only tangentially assisted by sci-fi hijinks. A charmingly whimsical take on time travel shenanigans and their existential dilemmas, Yamaguchi’s meticulously plotted farce is an indie gem.  


Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes streams in Germany 1st to 6th June as part of this year’s Nippon Connection.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

Go Find a Psychic! (曲がれ!スプーン, Katsuyuki Motohiro, 2009)

go find a psychic posterHow old is too old to still believe in Santa? Yone Sakurai (Masami Nagasawa), the heroine of Katsuyuki Motohiro’s Go Find a Psychic! (曲がれ!スプーン, Magare! Spoon) longs to believe the truth is out there even if everyone else thinks she must be a bit touched in the head. If there really are people with psychic powers, however, they might not feel very comfortable coming forward. After all, who wants to be the go to sofa moving guy when everyone finds out you have telekinesis? That’s not even factoring in the fear of being abducted by the government and experimented on!

In any case, Yone has her work cut out for her when the TV variety show she works for which has a special focus on paranormal abilities sends her out out in search of “true” psychics after a series of on air disasters has their viewer credibility ratings plummeting. Ideally speaking, Yone needs to find some quality superhero action in time for the big Christmas Eve special, but her lengthy quest up and down Japan brings her only the disappointment of fake yetis and charlatan monks. That is until she unwittingly ends up at Cafe Kinesis which holds its very own psychics anonymous meeting every Christmas Eve so the paranormal community can come together in solidarity without fearing the consequences of revealing their abilities.

Based on a comic stage play, Go Find a Psychic! roots its humour in the everyday. The psychics of Cafe Kinesis are a bunch of ordinary middle-aged men of the kind you might find in any small town watering hole anywhere in Japan. The only difference is, they have a collection of almost useless superhuman abilities including the manipulation of electronic waves (useful for getting an extra item out of a vending machine), telekinesis (“useful” for throwing your annoying boss halfway across the room), X-ray vision (which has a number of obvious applications), and mind reading (or more like image transmission). The bar owner is not a psychic himself but was once helped by one which is why he set up the bar, hoping to meet and thank the person who frightened off an angry dog that was trying to bite him. Seeing as all the guests are psychic, no one is afraid to show off their talents but when a newcomer, Mr. Kanda (Hideto Iwai), suddenly shows up it creates a problem when the gang realise his “ability” of being “thin” is just the normal kind of skinniness. Seeing as he’s not a proper psychic, can they really let him leave and risk exposing the secrets of Cafe Kinesis?

Meanwhile, Yone’s quest continues – bringing her into contact with a strange man who claims he can withstand the bite of a poisonous African spider. Needless to say, the spider will be back later when the psychics become convinced Yone’s brought it with her presenting them with a conflict. They don’t want her to find out about their psychic powers and risk getting put on TV, but they can’t very well let her walk off with a poisonous spider trapped about her person. Despite small qualms about letting Kanda leave in one piece, the psychics aren’t bad guys and it is Christmas after all. Realising Yone just really loves all sort of psychic stuff and is becoming depressed after getting her illusions repeatedly shattered, the gang decide to put on a real Christmas show to rekindle her faith in the supernatural.

Just because you invite a UFO to your party and it doesn’t turn up it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Some things can’t be explained by science. Maybe those old guys from the bar really can make miracles if only someone points them in the right direction. Like a good magic trick, perhaps it’s better to keep a few secrets and not ask too many questions about how things really work. For Yone the world is better with a little magic in it, even if you have to admit that people who want to go on TV aren’t usually going to be very “genuine”. That doesn’t mean that “genuine” isn’t out there, but if you find it you might be better to keep it to yourself or risk losing it entirely.


Original trailer (no subtitles)