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Fantasia 2020

[Fantasia] ‘Tezuka’s Barbara’ review: An orgy of color, sound, and emotions

A surprisingly deep story.

Tezuka’s Barbara is a strange love story. Based on an adult manga, the movie (which is making its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival) is about a writer who has lost his passion. Yosuke Mikuro still writes, but only to please “stupid” readers. One day, he meets a woman named Barbara who causes him to reevaluate his life.

If ever there was a film that was style over substance, this is it. This is a movie mean to assault the sense of its audience. While it is not entirely barren, it is the look of Barbara audiences will remember most. In a word, it is obnoxious.

Saying a movie is “style over substance” and “obnoxious” are normally not good things. This is not the case with director Macoto Tezuka’s adaptation of his father’s work. Barbara is meant to leave a vivid impression in minds.

It succeeds with its vivid colors and surreal set pieces. Barbara does not rely solely on bright hallucinations, however. Tezka effectively uses camera angles to keep the audience off guard. While this adds to the film’s atmosphere, it can be disorienting.

Barbara also attacks the auditory senses. While the movie is set in the 1970s, it uses different styles of music. This ranges from jazz to rap. It is as erratic as the cinematography can be. Conversely, nothing ever sounds out of place.

[Fantasia] 'Tezuka's Barbara' review: An orgy of color, sound, and emotions

For everything the film does stylistically, it never forgets its story. The tale of a depressed writer finding his muse is not a new one. Barbara puts a kinkier spin on the premise. It is an interesting take on a familiar tale.

The plot also has a surprising amount of depth. Barbara delves into loneliness, the meaning of true love and art, and even pretentiousness. There are a lot of moving pieces here. It all seems chaotic, but they all serve the same purpose, in the end. At times, it is a very touching story.

While the relationship Yosuke and Barbara initially verges on antagonistic, it soon becomes clear how important the two are to each other. This is where Tezuka’s Barbara shows just how sincere the story actually is. It may be unusual, but this is definitely a love story.

 

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