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Eureka (Shinji Aoyama) 2001

I would like to begin this review by mourning the bankruptcy of Shooting Gallery Films. Their Shooting Gallery Film Series bravely distributed this "undistributable" film to more than 20 markets in the US. I personally saw it at the 2000 New York Film Festival, but I realize the majority of people don't have access to such events. It is sad that this great resource for films has been shut down. In any case, Eureka is a 3 hr 40 minute epic which showed the aftermath of a bus hijacking. The film is shot in scope and is sepia toned (except for the final shot, which is unnecessarily shown in color).  It's the first film I've seen by director Shinji Aoyama.

The film begins by showing passengers boarding the bus, but then cuts to the middle of the hostage standoff. We are spared most of the violence of the situation, and really only see its conclusion. At the end of the hijacking, only two children and Makoto (Koji Yakusho from The Eel) are surviving. All three are traumatized by the event. Makoto disappears from his home in the night & the two children become mute. The theme of the movie is that you can't run away from your problems & start anew. I found it weird to have such an American theme (probably THE most American theme) in a Japanese film.... the film really had more of an American
sensibility to it.

Two years later, Makoto returns home to try to rebuild his life. At this point, the film is very similar in plot to The Eel (with the kids standing in for the eel). Romance begins to bloom, and he moves in with the two children, whose father has died and mother has abandoned them. Shortly afterward, their cousin moves in to asses the situation. The film moves onward from here, but I'm a bit reluctant to divulge any spoilers. What I will say though is that there are several subplots (we find out what happened during the 2 years Makoto was gone, there is a serial killer, the characters take a road trip) but they are best left discovered by you.

The film does not seem nearly as long as it is. It isn't exactly fast paced, but it is very plot driven. There are still many fantastic scenes filled with great observations about the characters. There is also a lot of humor in the film.
The movie's psychology seems a bit suspect, yet it still works as a whole. It's not an unqualified masterpiece, but it does achieve an epic scope. I definitely enjoyed the film and would recommend it to any adventurous moviegoer.

***1/2

September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman