Not that I saw so many films in Cannes. But this Competition feature "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo" by Spanish director Isabel Coixet remains with me and so many others have already disappeared from my memory. This story of love, vengeance and mourning in the Japanese megacity brings to mind themes from "Last Tango In Paris", the place of sex in the face of death, eros and thanatos and our fragile humanity in dealing with life as survivors.
Thanks to Cinema Without Borders for this account of the film by Coixet:
Coixet recalls the genesis of her film: "Films, like tunes or poems, spring from strange encounters, from odd associations that can be completely incongruent but full of magic. In the case of Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, I 'saw'the story (I don’t want to sound like some kind of visionary, but this is how I felt it happen) at Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. I suppose the smells of fresh tuna, seaweed and oysters, the shouting of the auctioneers, the scraping and shuffling of thousands of fish boxes dragged across the market floor and the peculiar effects of the fluorescent lighting at four o’clock in the morning had a great deal to do with it. Or the stony face of the girl neatly hosing the floor who was so adamant in her refusal to let me photograph her, showing a determination that is unusual for Japan."
"I knew I would tell this story of a woman – a hard, solitary, mysterious, wounded woman – who leads a double life: a fish market worker who cleans, hauls crates and occasionally carries out jobs as a hit-woman. And the story of a man, whose obsession are sounds, and who is silently in love with that woman, even though he knows that the very most he can expect from her is the sound of her breath, the sound of her heels down an empty alley and her conversations during her meetings with a man, of Spanish origin, towards whom she experiences an attraction that endangers the life she has led up until then as a loner. To this initial idea, my “vision” or whatever you want to call it, I added the story of a man who is unable to cope with the loss of his daughter, and is on a blind search for revenge that eventually leads to a tragic end."
"This is how Map of the Sounds of Tokyo was born. I was also influenced by the fascination I feel for contemporary Japanese culture and the atmosphere I find in the novels of Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto as well as by my unconcealed addiction to wasabi and the almost tangible vibrations emanating from Tokyo during the night: a mixture of expectation, mystery, darkness and tenderness that leaves an indelible mark."
In 2005, Isabel Coixet was a member of the 18-filmmaker team - which also included Gus Van Sant, Walter Salles, and the Coen brothers – which produced the collective project "Paris, Je T’aime",in which each director explored a different Paris arrondissement, or district.