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Original Title:
Gekko no sasayaki

Japan 1999

Drama, Romance

Akihiko Shiota

Kenji Mizuhashi
Kouta Kusano
Chika Fujimura
Harumi Inoue
Yoshiki Sekino

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Moonlight Whispers

Story: Takuya (Kenji Mizuhashi) has feelings for his female Kendo-partner Satsuki (Tsugumi). Satsuki is one of the best of the Kendo team and also the reason why Takuya wanted to become a part of the team in the first place. When he finds out that Satsuki has also fallen in love with him, the two finally become a couple. However, it doesn't take long until Satsuki finds out about the odd predilections of her boyfriend. He prefers to smell at his girlfriend's underwear or overhear her when she goes to the toilet. Disgusted she dumps his boyfriend and soon thereafter meets with Uematsu (Kouta Kusano). Nonetheless, Takuya is very clingy. He strangely hasn't any feelings of jealousy towards Satsuki's new boyfriend, but just wants to be near her.
Satsuki can't understand Takuya's obsession. Yet, when he offers to be her "dog", she grabs the chance to anger him with lots of nearly impracticable errands. Nevertheless, he proves to be incredibly obedient and so she lets him watch her going out with Uematsu. Eventually, he even has to overhear how she spends the night with Uematsu.
Satsuki can't understand what's going on, yet she slowly starts to take pleasure in playing Takuya's game. If she watches him cry she feels better... However, she is aware that their "relationship" can't go on like this. Or can it?

Review: "Moonlight Whispers" is absolutely not what you might think of it to be after reading the plot summary. No explicit details are shown or explored, instead director Akihiko Shiota creates an outstandingly honest and serious drama about what it means to be different. Thanks to two great actors and the sensitiveness with which Shiota approaches the topic, the movie can even be accessable for those who think that the story is a little bit too "sick".
In the beginning we have your typical romance and get introduced to the lifes of Takuya and Satsuki. The two seem to be the perfect couple until we discover in form of some few interspersed monologues of Takuya that he isn't really happy. While at first we believe that the unattainability of Satsuki may have been the force that attracted Takuya and now that he is together with her the problem might be that there is nothing left of it anymore, naturally, we soon are disabused. Takuya just has different sexual preferences. While some of them might be quite shocking for some viewers you won't be able to flee the emotional surroundings and the feelings of the two main protagonists, despite the disconcerting feeling you might have.

If it wouldn't be a fact one couldn't believe that the movie is actually based on a Manga. With tranquil and empathic pictures we are told the story of a love relationship the way we have never seen it before. Takuya's sincerity towards Satsuki concerning his preferences may be irritating and the more bitter for him as he has to be aware that he is definitely frightening her with his confession, but it's also the same honesty that makes us sympathize with Takuya in some way.
The acting skills of the main protagonists in "Moonlight Whispers" are just great. Such a controversial topic is of course in strong need of two powerful young actors who know their stuff. Fortunately, they were found with Kenji Mizuhashi and Tsugumi. Mizuhashi convinces as the boy who slowly starts to find out who he really is. His feelings for Satsuki are with no noubt different and odd, yet it's obvious that this is really love he feels, even though it is a twisted kind of. That this brings lots of emotions into the game is not a surprise and Mizuhashi manages with seemingly no effort to portray every facet of his character right down to the last detail. Beginning with his initial insecureness going all the way to his subservience as a "slave" for Satsuki. It's here, that he just could have aroused feelings of pity, but he pulls it off that we somehow really can understand him. Well, "understand" might be the wrong word. He is just very believeable. However, you will have to watch the movie in order to understand what's meant by this.

Tsugumi has also been a great choice for the role. She is the slightly anxious girlfriend who slowly has fun dealing with her role in which she is pushed by Takuya indirectly. She may not really understand what's going on, which is the reason why she has the strongest bond towards the audience of all the protagonists, but she feels better when she makes Takuya cry. That she can't understand her emotions herself is understandable and her ambivalent feelings are portrayed by Tsugumi very believeable.

Technically, "Moonlight Whispers" is very well done. There are some very nice camera angles, a few long shots and above all else there are some beautiful sceneries giving the movie something special. There are also some nice subtle tricks the director makes use of. Although we don't get to see anything in particular some scenes are almost shocking. When Takuya sits in the closet and has to overhear how his ex-girlfriend sleeps with her new boyfriend just a few meters in front of him... well, this is really strong stuff. But that was exactly the intention of the director. He wants to stir up the audience and show them that there are also different people and above all else different forms of love. The fascinating thing is that the viewer, despite of all of the controversial behavior of the protagonists, is always a part of the events on screen. Actually, you are almost impatient to see how their "relationship" continues. We are interested in their fate and ask ourselves how their "love" is supposed to have a future. Doing so we always share the protagonist's bewilderment. This emotional roller coaster, the two have to get through is unenviable and more than once we are in danger to become crazy when trying to pass judgement on them. It's not as simple as to say that they are just sick in the head, like some might want to without thinking it over thoroughly.
Shiota does a great job shedding some light on the characters and their behavior, remaining as objective as possible without trying to pass any judgement on them himself. This he leaves for the viewer to do. Yet, this might also be something some people will have their problems with, leaving them a little bit disappointed with a somewhat open ending. Shiota shows us a way. However, where the two main characters are going from there is up to our thinking and imagination.

"Moonlight Whispers" is one of those exceptional, thought-provoking movies that will stir up the viewer. Finally, there is an inventive turn in the romantic drama genre. With good directing and two outstanding young actors Shiota takes us into a world, which may have remained unknown for many of us otherwise. Recommendable emotion-loaded cinema of a different kind...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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