It’s becoming extremely popular these days in packed, urban communities to have a group of students and young professionals share small apartments to save money, often times illegally. Such is the situation in ‘Parade’, a film by Isao Yukisada, based on a novel by Shuichi Yoshida.
A cramped, two-bedroom apartment in Tokyo is shared by four individuals: A bumbling student(played by Koide Keisuke), health-nut salary man(Fujiwara Tatsuya), alcoholic illustrator(Karina), and an unemployed loafer(Kanjiya Shihori), each with their own life and problems. They get along fine, at times seeming like the best of friends, but in the end they keep their distance. When talking about the apartment, one explained that, “If this were the internet, it’s like a chatroom or BBS. If you don’t like it, you leave. If you like it, you stay and laugh. A kind of free space.” It’s a perfect analogy, as you realize people walk in and out of the apartment as they please as if it were a chatroom or forum to see if there was anything interesting going on.
It makes the analogy even more humorous when a mysterious guest(Hayashi Kento) appears in the apartment one morning, and everyone nonchalantly assimilates him into the group without much thought, just like a chat. Everyone assumes that he was a friend of someone else in the apartment, but it’s soon made clear that no one has any real connection to him. The stranger turns out to be teenage vagabond with no home, and the four roommates let him stay without much thought.
It’s at this point of the film when you realize that this stranger will become the catalyst for the unraveling of each member. He quickly forms bonds with these roommates individually in deeper ways than they have with each other, and that in turn influences the roommates’ relationship with each other, revealing dark vices and secrets to each other that were once never exposed. Would this change in their relationships repel them from each other, or bring them closer? Or is it possible that nothing would change? Given the situations, any answer is scary, and the end of the film seems to ask you that question.
It seems that Japan has been going through a large art-house phase, or maybe their way of storytelling and film making lends itself to that genre better than anyone else, but every great movie I’ve seen from Japan has been an art house film. The quiet, low-budget indie sensibility is palpable, with a very strong acting cast breathing life into the movie. The cinematography and art design beautifully designs the perfect atmosphere for the movie to take place. The music is scarce, but the absence of it makes it all the more powerful when it does appear. Make no mistake, don’t take this as a film that takes itself too seriously. It’s a well balanced drama with great humor throughout, though I’d be lying if I told you that the ending was anything but heavy.
‘Parade’ immediately struck a chord with me personally because I’ve lived in that same arrangement in New York City; living in an apartment with three other people illegally, we each had our own lives, sometimes bringing in friends, sometimes disappearing for days. The small apartment almost always had a guest sleeping over; the living space could swell with 10 people sleeping over in a night with me not knowing a single person, assuming they were someone else’s guests, and thinking about how easily a stranger could have crashed at our apartment without us knowing.
The apartment was a free space, just like a chat-room. We’d often help each other, listen to each others problems, drink and go on little adventures but in the end there was a silent agreement that we wouldn’t bring anything ugly to the relationship to keep from getting too involved. That’s precisely the same agreement the occupants in ‘Parade’ had, but it appears their ugly side couldn’t be concealed—So what happens now?
Directed by Yukisada Isao
Releases February 20th, 2010