Continued to make the most out of Japan Cuts’ online edition with a screening of Mrs. Noisy, a thoroughly engrossing film that spins a surprisingly nuanced narrative out of a straightforward premise. The plot revolves around Maki, a novelist that has fallen into a bit of a creative slump; ever since the birth of her six-year-old daughter, she’s struggled to balance her work with her domestic responsibilities, and what little material she does manage to produce is always compared unfavorably to her earlier critical and commercial successes. Her troubles are exacerbated by her nuisance of a next-door neighbor, whose bizarre antics further disrupt her already tight schedule. When Maki decides to use the ensuing feud as inspiration for her newest publication, however, she learns that there’s much more to the old woman’s seemingly inconsiderate behavior than meets the eye, forcing her to confront the consequences of her own narrow-minded preconceptions.
Director Chihiro Amano’s visual style isn’t terribly flashy, but it doesn’t really need to be; her command of the fundamentals of cinematic language communicates the story clearly enough. Her framing and blocking are particularly impressive; Maki and her husband, for example, are often positioned far away from each other, and they rarely make eye contact, simply and elegantly conveying the emotional distance between them. Amano is equally adept at juggling conflicting tones (aided by her actors, who subtly adjust their performances in accordance with the audience’s sympathies—Yoko Ohtaka’s turn as the title character is especially compelling), seamlessly transitioning from slapstick comedy to heart-wrenching drama.
Mrs. Noisy is the sort of movie that, in my mind, defines the “festival experience”. I picked it out of the lineup on a whim—and it absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. While it’s not as charmingly quirky as On-Gaku: Our Sound or as boldly experimental as Labyrinth of Cinema, its immaculately competent craftsmanship makes it effortlessly enjoyable.