A silly, philosophical film that’s not nearly as soft in the noodle as it seems on its nutty surface, Minoru Kawasaki’s THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN is a satirical comedic riff on, well, a lot of things, but if you want a specific arrow pointing at a Jonathan Swiftian bull’s eye, then the target of this flick is HUMANKIND. It’s kind of a broad topic but Kawasaki’s kitchen-sink-included mix-and-match of sub-ideas – all in service to the Great Idea that fuels the film – coalesce into a surprisingly engaging film. It’s not surprising that the film is engaging, as the concept laid out in the title is a pretty rad idea for a movie of whatever stripe, but THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN is surprising in HOW it’s engaging. I said it’s silly, but that frivolity isn’t hollow. It’s part and parcel of Kawasaki’s auteurism and his seeming silliness always is the candy coating to real brains. As over-the-top as Kawasaki’s cinematic conceits are, they hide a real sublimity the keen viewer will snag after cutting through the given film’s kaleidoscopic layers. In the case of THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN (I can’t get enough of saying that title), the layering is as meta as it is overt. There’s tons of stuff going on surface-wise – plenty for the observant cinephile to pluck from the vine without thinking twice. As with this director’s other films – the ones I’ve seen, at least – Kawasaki grabs left and right, hither and thither, for culture nuggets to satire. Yet it’s far from just hodge-podge; there’s definite design to the in-jokes yanked from culture (cinematic and otherwise) both East and West. But beneath the cornucopia of obvious references there is a sincere and serious subtext. It’s message, once you’ve arrived at it, may seem to be God’s final message to mankind blazing in huge fiery letters. But it’s far from trite. And the rule is fair play. Cultural centrism is under fire throughout, and while the expected jabs at Western arrogance (to my mind, American in particular) are present, with tables being turned on the once big-wig white folks from the West finding themselves at Japan’s mercy. It’s also not surprising to see other Asian nations depicted as being in the same boat. But this very Japanese picture turns the same honest eye on its own culture. Nobody gets out unexamined in the only seemingly lowbrow THE WORLD SINKS EXCEPT JAPAN. This culture clash comedy collage of disaster films (nods to both Western world-enders and Eastern Tokyo stompers and mini-building blow-ups) and pokings at popular art from all over is a legitimate satire that hides its subtlety under a gaggle of gonzo.
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