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[Fantasia] Labyrinth of Cinema review: Wild and emotional feast for the eyes

An auteur in his element

Labyrinth of Cinema is an overpowering movie making its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival. The movie uses a variety of styles to bombard the audience’s senses. It is also an emotional tale that will resonate with all who watch.

Three men attend the last night at the Setouchi Kinema. There is a movie marathon going on that is going to celebrate the history of Japan. The trio soon find themselves whisked into different periods in the country’s past. Can they do anything to change the past?

Labyrinth of Cinema looks back on the history of Japan. It is an unflinching examination that looks at the pride, honor, and militaristic aspects of the country. The film is also something of a love letter to movies. As impressive as the film can be, this does lead to a disjointed feeling.

Director Nobuhiko Obayashi is willing to take some huge risks in Labyrinth of Cinema. The amount of visual techniques used in the film is nothing short of stunning. Color, black and white, live action, and animation are all seen during the three hour runtime.

[Fantasia] Labyrinth of Cinema review: Wild and emotional feast for the eyes

It can all be overwhelming, made even more disruptive by the lightning quick pace of the first two thirds parts of the movie. Obayashi is able to hold things together, if just barely. Labyrinth of Cinema packs a lot in and may lose some of the audience early on.

The story finds its footing in the third act. The pace slows down and even those not familiar with Japanese history will likely know the setting. The main characters are in Hiroshima days before the first atomic bomb is dropped.

[Fantasia] Labyrinth of Cinema review: Wild and emotional feast for the eyes

After the near sensory overload of the first part of Labyrinth of Cinema, the story becomes much more grounded. The entire movie carries a strong anti war message, but these moments may resonate the strongest on an emotional level. The movie’s finale is incredibly powerful.

Sometimes, directors take chances that just do not work. But even then, audiences tend to be left with a solid piece of work. Labyrinth of Cinema is a prime example of this. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi takes viewers on a fascinating journey that does not always connect but still manages to entertain.


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