MARIKO ROSE THE SPOOK
(Obake no Mariko Rozu)
Mariko Rose the Spook comes from the relatively unknown gay Japanese filmmaker Devi Kobayashi (who is for some reason is listed as Debi Kobayashi and a woman on the IMDB). The only other film that Kobayashi appears to have made is the short film Hikari (2011), which screens before Mariko Rose, an absurdist film about a woman who believes that she does not fit in until a UFO in the form of a man in a glowing tutu pops down out of the sky. In both films, Devi Kobayashi plays the flamboyant central character the titular drag queen Mariko Rose here and the personification of the UFO in Hikari. Kobayashi even appeared to film festival audiences around the world dressed as Mariko Rose where he would sing the songs he performs in the film.
By and large, Queer Cinema is not that well represented on this site either. This denotes no particular prejudice on the part of this reviewer rather the paucity of material that falls into the science-fiction, horror and fantasy genre that is this sites purview. If its out there, bring it on Im happy to review it. Mariko Rose the Spook is one example that does. Imagine a weird mix of a gay film and something like Ring (1998) or Ju-on: The Grudge (2003). Well maybe the Grudge connection is stretching it perhaps something more like a comedic take on Ring/The Grudge where instead of Sadako the ghost is a flamboyant man in traditional Japanese geisha drag.
The first half of the films fairly short running time (66 minutes) plays out as a static drama between Devi Kobayashis Mariko Rose and Mutsumi Ogisos depressed lesbian where the drama never moves much out beyond two people in an apartment. There is amiable comedy generated in some of Marikos reactions and pieces of advice. Devi Kobayashi takes the opportunity to play to the gallery with flamboyantly entertaining regard.
Mariko Rose the Spook finds its appeal during the second half where the seance takes place and the carefully laid plans to get laid go awry. Devi Kobayashi gets particularly manic while performing the hauntings at one point, even tickling Kiichi Sonobes nipples in a frenetic blur (dont ask!). Directorially, Kobayashi has fun here puncturing the cliches of the kaidan eiga (Japanese ghost story) and serving up comic mishaps. The only disappointment of the film is the ending where true girl-girl love fails to win out and Mutsumi Ogiso merely settles for being best friends with Nao Murunaga something that with her apologising in advance for any opportunities where she may decide to kiss Nao, seems just a tad needy and stalkerish and not exactly something where you place a great faith in this newfound BFF lasting until their mutual dying days.
Trailer here (no English subs):-