SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2012
By Don Simpson | January 29, 2012
Director: Keiichi Kobayashi
Writer: Keiichi Kobayashi
Starring: Ai Ikeda, Ena Koshino, Reiko Fujiwara, Tsubasa Takayama
Izumi’s (Ai Ikeda) world is black and white (literally, Keiichi Kobayashi shot the film in black and white), just like the newspapers that she is obsessed with reading. Everything in the world is either good or bad; and, for the most part, the newspapers only report news that Izumi interprets as being bad. Izumi takes it upon her highly opinionated self to grade the newspapers — the more bad news they report, the more negative their score. It is not as if Izumi sees much good in the world herself; it is almost as if she blames the newspapers for turning the world into such an ugly place…or maybe Izumi is just upset that the newspapers are perpetuating the ugliness of an already horrible world.
We meet Izumi the day before her Fall break. She overslept and has decided to ditch high school on this fateful day. As fate would have it, she finds a wallet with 300,000 yen. (“Why so much?” Izumi asks herself.) Rather than hand it over to the police, she decides to return the wallet to its rightful owner. That is until she recognizes the name on the plaque of the owner’s mansion. The name is that of a corrupt politician whom she recently read about in the newspaper. Izumi decides that the 300,000 yen is dirty money, so it is not worth returning. Instead, she lends two thirds of the money to a poor fisherman.
When Izumi shows off the remaining 100,000 yen to her friends — Hasumi (Ena Koshino) and Kaoru (Reiko Fujiwara) — they investigate the wallet further and discover that it belongs to a cute high school boy, Sato (Tsubasa Takayama). Against Izumi’s will, Hasumi decides that they should return the wallet to Sato, in the hopes that he will take her out on a date in return; but instead Sato hires the three girls to develop a newspaper of only good news for him to cheer up his hospitalized lover. It seems almost all of Izumi, Hasumi and Kaoru’s actions are based upon lust, jealousy, selfishness and greed. Their likability is diminished even further by their propensity for catty name-calling. Judging by the way they talk, they must really detest one another. Why these three girls continue to hang out together is a total mystery to me…
Writer-director Keiichi Kobayashi’s choice to shoot About the Pink Sky in black and white is apparently getting panned by U.S. critics as a pretentious and shallow stylistic decision. The 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival obviously did not see Kobayashi’s aesthetic choices as pretentious or shallow (nor did the Sundance Film Festival programmers), instead the Tokyo IFF awarded About the Pink Sky the Japanese Eyes: Best Film. Kobayashi says that he chose to shoot in black and white to represent how quickly the present becomes the past; for me it represents Izumi’s naive perspective of the world, it also lends the narrative a surreal dreamlike quality. Nonetheless, the choice to shoot in black and white works for me, as does Kobayashi’s even bolder decision to not use any music for the entire 113 minute running time. My only gripe with About the Pink Sky is the totally unsympathetic personalities of the protagonists. I found myself not caring about what was going to happen to any of them.