“2,843 people were blown to hell when a fireball hit the World Trade Center. It was such a beautiful sight. A beer in one hand, I was glued to the TV. Every thing’s going crazy. That’s why I peep at the corpses under the rubble.”
... That, ladies and gentlemen, is Peep “TV” Show’s manifesto. As with any manifesto, it is as important or silly as you’d like to make it. Thousands of people die, and that’s sad. It was beautiful, and that’s sad. It’s entertaining, and that’s sad. The world’s gone crazy and that’s sad. We’re all voyeurs of other’s misfortune and that’s sad. Every thing is sad and I’m bored.
At this point the sarcastic ironist in me wants to include a Carter Family overlay to the tune of Keep on the Sunny Side. Peep “TV” Show is definitely not an upbeat film.
If you were to try to find a simple linear story line in Peep “TV” Show, it might go something like this: Hasegawa (Takayuki Hasegawa) is a Bored Urban Japanese Guy (BUJG) who’s got a gig doing something with computers. But his real thing is his web-based reality video: Peep “TV” Show.
The banality of the world around him is driving him nuts, so naturally he wants to record it and share it with everyone else. His goal is to shock the tragically un-hip and attract attention to himself, or at least his web site.
Moe is a Bored Urban Japanese Gal (also BUJG) whose thing is dressing up in Lolita-Goth drag and then hanging out with like-minded, -attired, and -gendered BUJGs in order to attract attention to herself and shock the tragically un-hip.
Boy, if you haven’t seen these two coming at each other, you haven’t been paying attention.
And come together they do. Moe wants to be in Hasegawa’s reality, as her own is leaving her, well, bored. She gets a slot on Peep “TV” Show that shows her being bored in her room 24/7.
Moe and Hasegawa decide to start charging to view the site. The money starts coming in. The site is a success, which simply bores them even more, proving once again that not every story can have a happy ending. If director Yutaka Tsuchiya had just left it at that, this might have been a tighter if somewhat weird little film.
Too Many Cooks
But Tsuchiya has got more on his mind. He wants to talk about how our perception of the world around us is shaped by the images we see on our televisions. For example, an ongoing theme is how 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Center is presented as both “news” and “movie.” We’ve seen so many special effect films that the live video from New York City looked like another action movie.
Tsuchiya also comments on modern man’s (and woman’s) lack of self-identity. One of the Lolita Goths comments “I’ve never been the real me.”
He shows us a hikikomori, one of those Japanese kids that close themselves up in their room and don’t come out, sometimes for years, choosing to exist through electronic media, the Internet, and video games. (According to the official web site, the actor playing the hikikomori was one in real life.)
Another theme involves inventing one’s own reality. Why shouldn’t the hikikomori or the Lolita Goths make up their own reality instead of following one some media source has made up for them?
And Tsuchiya does go on about being lonely in the middle of a crowd.... somebody cue “Eleanor Rigby” please.... ah, look at all the lonely people.
Eye for Detail in the Hall of Mirrors
These are all solid ideas. Any of them would make a great film. Too bad they are all lumped together in this one.
Tsuchiya makes up for it with his sharp mind and eye for detail. For instance, his thumbnail sketches of the characters Hasegawa sees around him are great. Watch for the Exhausted Office Worker who can’t let go of World War II with his compulsive reciting of historical trivia (a guy after my own heart).
(Curiously, compulsive behavior is exhibited by everyone in this film and yet that doesn’t seem to interest director Tsuchiya as another theme. Maybe he just takes it as a given, like the sun coming up tomorrow.)
Perhaps the strongest thing about this film is Tsuchiya’s use of the video medium as one of the ideas of the film. Hasegawa is an artist who paints his web-site canvas with his security camera feeds. This is what Tsuchiya is doing, too, so there’s a sort of Hall of Mirrors reflectivity going on with what’s ‘real’ and what’s not, down to and including the film itself. For instance, Tsuchiya’s staged/dramatic video has the same POV as Hasegawa’s peeping security cams. That is, until the character looks into the camera and starts to explain himself. Suddenly we are in a documentary... or is it a film done like a documentary?
A couple of turns like that and you begin to think that maybe this is where Tsuchiya lost his center while making Peep “TV” Show. Nevertheless, he’s still pushing the envelope with Peep “TV” Show, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing his next film.
Picture and Sound
Peep “TV” Show is shot on video, but then that was the whole point. The subtitles are well placed and legible, though with some curious grammatical usage.
Sound quality is good. Some of the sound is rough, but there again, that’s what’s expected from ‘reality’. The music might be a little predictable. In ‘real’ life we are surrounded by canned music all the time but obviously for copyright reasons, Tsuchiya can’t get that real.