A Studio Malaparte presentation. Produced by Tazz Nishihara, Hideyuki Miyaoka, Kevin Michael Winterfield, Rob Nilsson.
Directed by Rob Nilsson. Co-director, Nobuhiro Suwa. Scenario improvised by east. Camera (color, HD video), Tazz Nishihara; editors, Chikara Motomura, Marshall Spight. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 14, 2000, Running time: 72 MIN.
With: Ryuki "Duke" Tenmaya, Chic Uchida, Kaori Nakata, Hinako Atsumi.
The least interesting of three features preemed by U.S. helmer Rob Nilsson at the Mill Valley fest is an experiment that doesn't pan out: Throw together a Method-minded auteur, Japanese thesps unaccustomed to improv, a three-day shooting sked and innate cultural/language gulfs, and odds are high you'll end up with something as rudderless as "Winter Oranges." Meandering, dull romantic triangle set on Sagi (a small island near Hiroshima) aims for poetical ambiguity but ends up merely obscure.
Protag Ryuki (Ryuki Tenmaya) is bored with island life, as well as his marriage to pregnant homebody Kaori (Kaori Nakata). He dreams of leaving for Tokyo, perhaps taking up acting -- wistful ideas inflamed when a tour group arrives and Ryuki pins his escapist hopes on a pretty journalist (Hinako Atsumi) who's amused by but indifferent to her new suitor. Little happens; scarcity of dialogue sometimes pays off, as in a telling scene when Kaori communicates her spousal exasperation by furiously folding laundry. But psychological insight and narrative drive remain vague, cast clearly uncertain where, if anywhere, this is heading. Nilsson provides some offbeat visual and audio touches. Tech values are adequate.