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Original Title:

Japan 2000

Comedy, Drama


Shinichi Tsutsumi
Yasuko Matsuyuki
Ren Osugi
Akira Yamamoto
Naomi Nishida
Masanobu Ando
Hideki Noda
Hijiri Kojima
Nanako Okochi
Nao Omori
Susumu Terajima
Yoji Tanaka
Kanji Tsuda

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Story: One day Koichi Takagi (Shinichi Tsutsumi) wakes up in a hotel room and can't remember what happened the day before. But certain things he carries with him slowly help him remember the events that took place and made him end up at the hotel. Everything started with a funeral that ended in a macabre fashion. When after that his girlfriend apparently seems to break up with him he goes to a bar and starts to drink. At the bar a beautiful mysterious woman (Yasuko Matsuyuki) catches his eye. However, before he can approach her the bar is suddenly filled with numerous shady individuals. Takagi wants to leave as soon as possible, but he already has the attention of yakuza boss Kiichiro Hanai (Akira Yamamoto). As he has somehow aroused the boss' interest Kiichiro takes him to his private club. As things evolve Takagi gets so drunk that he finally approaches the mysterious woman, even though she is obviously the girlfriend of the yakuza boss. Still, things only get upside-down when Takagi by chance gets into possession of a shotgun and drunk as he is starts to fire his gun indiscriminately...

Review: "Monday" is a movie for those who believe that fate has once again dealt them an especially bad day. Because if you see what fate dealt Koichi Takagi on the eponymous monday your own share of problems suddenly almost seems ridiculous. If something can go wrong it will go wrong. The only thing is that for Takagi this happens in a big way. While introducing us to his day "Monday" is mostly a pretty quiet movie, yet offers a lot of black humor that manages to create its own charm and makes the movie so worthwhile in the end. Moreover, it's easy to sympathize with Takagi because he is a pitiable guy who simply isn't willing to live at other people's expense in today's aggressive society. He is too kind-hearted and thus not able to assert himself, but he is also too weak to do so. And that's exactly what changes when he suddenly gets his hands on a weapon. Director Sabu shows and discusses what a sudden gain of power can do with a normal man and he does so with a refreshing wink.

"Monday" also could have easily become a subtle drama about a salaryman who goes down in the grinder of social pecking order. Director Sabu, though, removes some of the drama of his "Falling Down"-like story and bestows a more humorous element upon his work, even if this sense for humor might prove to be a bit wacky at times. Strangely, this brings the drama to bear even better, which doesn't mean that you can't laugh without having a guilty conscience. On the contrary, the film is full of scenes that are so odd that sometimes you will find yourself rolling over the floor laughing. First of all, "Monday" is a comedy, however, even if the socio-critical tone is running through the whole movie. Offered in a fashion easy to digest you can soon get along with the rather quiet presentation of the events, all the more as Sabu manages to create an enormous amount of tension in almost every scene by playing with the viewer's expectations. The first scene, which is a funeral, is already a good example for this. You know that something will happen, but you are never really sure what it might be.

The story seems to be held together rather loosely, but since we are told the several events of the day in shape of flashbacks this gives the movie a special appeal. What's most interesting is that scenes that at first seem to be unimportant prove to be puzzle pieces that in the end brought the whole house of cards down. Although there is no secret truth lying behind these coorrelations the connections are always only apparent retrospectively. The way Takagi gets his hands on the weapon, which is the element that eventually makes everything go off the rails, is also as unspectacular as it is funny. As if a string of stupid conincidences made it its business to ruin the anyhow everything but perfect life of the protagonist, but not without giving him the chance, to take revenge on society for what it did to him. The fact that people are hypocritical and that you don't get in life what you deserve is so deep-rootedly reflected in Takagi that he can't even imagine a pacifistic world in his daydream!

So the movie apparently also wants to convey a pacifistic message, but it does so in such a naive fashion, in an especially "moving" and therefore also wacky insertion, that you can't help but laugh and at the same time still get the message subconsciously. A weapon grants power. Even a weakling can feel strong thanks to it, at least for a short amount of time. Director Sabu even touches some pros and contras, resp. interesting thoughts through an implemented arguement in TV. Isn't it a fact that if you have a weapon at your disposal you will use it? Even if the movie's hero does some stupid things with it we can never lose our sympathy for him. On the one hand that is because the movie presents the events with an ironic-sarcastic undertone, on the other hand that is because Takagi is simply a man like anyone else who has a hard time in life and who doesn't have the power to stand up and do something about it until by chance "power" finds its way into his hands.

Apart from the socia-critical tone there is a lot to laugh about as already stated. At times it's real deadpan humor as in the funeral scene, but at other times the humor can also be quite childish. When Takagi starts to dance totally drunken in front of the Yakuza and not that bad at all, but still somehow embarrassing, you simply have to laugh about the situation. The same goes for his dimwitted smile in his drunken state. Especially the very buoyant soundtrack that fits at any point and the scary faces of the yakuza members, which therefore simply don't want to fit into the picture, radiate a lot of fun and charm. Shinichi Tsutsumi plays his part with a lot of facets and apart from all the humor also gives his character the necessary weight. In the end, "Monday" proves not to be the art-house movie you could mistake it for at the beginning but a very entertaining drama-comedy-mix, that centers around the life of the pitiable little man who suddenly gets the chance to fight back and naturally is doomed to fail. But that's actually the reason why the viewer roots for him and the wink that is all-apparent in "Monday" makes the movie sit not so heavily on the stomach. An insider's tip that because of its popularity among fans actually isn't one anymore.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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