Notable Cast: Hirobumi Watanabe, Takahori Kurosaki, Misao Hirayama, Riko Hisatsugu, Akitada Iso, Tomio Tsukui
Previously, indie filmmaking meistro Hirobumi Watanabe delivered the strong but all too familiar Party 'Round the Globe back in 2017, which being his forth feature film, whilst it did impress me overall, was starting to feel as if Watanabe was too comfortably sank down into his own cinematic world of sorts. With this fifth and newest offering, Life Finds a Way, Hirobumi Watanabe delivers his funniest effort yet via the sharply written metafiction that deconstructs the entirety of his being as an artist and personality in general.
As in his previous works, we see Hirobumi, playing himself here this time around, partaking in the mundane day to day activities that anyone can quickly relate to, although it is a decidedly hilarious focus on his laziness that bounds said regularity together. He takes plenty of jabs at himself in this film and having followed his career since the Mudship days and having a personal relationship of sorts with him through online conversations over the years, it's great just how much of it draws from reality and specific moments during his career thus far, albeit and for comedic effect, many things are exaggerated.
The plot is that Hirobumi is working on writing the script for his next film, a project built around the band Triple Fire's music, which he seems to lack the creative juices to really get the ball rolling on. Thus we see these aforementioned daily activities being lived out by an artist that struggles with massive writer's block, something that many can relate to. As the film carries on, we see the unraveling at the very core of what Hirobumi Watanabe strives to be as a filmmaker and a contributor to the arts. It is very profound, deeply moving and highly thought provoking as the tension built peaks at a key moment that ascends into the realms of experimental avant-garde cinema, taking on a truly unique shape that brings everything together in a way that only a filmmaker like Watanabe could do.
Another highlight is the brilliant "interview" sections that play out later in the film, but I won't delve into details for fear of spoiling anything, but I must say that particular segment may be my personal favorite chunk of the overall experience as it reflects beautifully on cinema as a whole and perhaps more importantly and relevant to the subject, the current state of Japanese film culture. Also, Watanabe's beautiful grandmother gives the best answers might I add. The use of real people from Watanabe's life and other actors and actresses to fill remaining roles makes for the perfect hybrid of reality and fiction that lends itself to the overall meta approach. I also really enjoy the fact that Triple Fire quite brilliantly wrote the songs that accompany the narrative here instead of visa versa.
In the end, Life Finds a Way has completely surpassed my expectations and blown me away in ways I never anticipated. A very inspiring piece of work as someone who, not to delve too personally, strives to be a filmmaker one day myself, really resonated deeply within me and I see the same applying to several others who hopefully have the great pleasure of viewing this beautiful piece of art themselves or whom perhaps already have. I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. Once more, Hirobumi Watanabe has crafted another fantastic work that is sure to pop up in my own best of the year list again. He most certainly hasn't gotten too comfortable in his own output I can confidently say.
Written by Josh Parmer