Based on Hideo Okuda’s collection of short stories, Lala Pipo (taken from the English phrase "a lot of people") is the debut feature from Masayuki Miyano, who worked on Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kamikaze Girls and Paco And The Magical Picture Book. Hiroki Narimiya headlines, alongside Yuri Nakamura, Mari Hamada, Tomoko Murakami, Takashi Yoshimura and Sarutoki Minagawa.
Six characters, six stories. Ninety minutes of comedy heaven. If you’re a fan of Nakashima’s quirky cinematic offerings, Lala Pipo should be right up your street. It bares all the hallmarks of a Nakashima picture, which is no great surprise as he did write the screenplay. Colourful, comical, hypnotic and bizarre, you would be forgiven for thinking that he directed it himself. Masayuki Miyano has certainly chosen wisely, imitating one of the most exciting directors in the world today.
Porn scout Kenji (Narimiya Hiroki) spends most of his time picking up girls and turning them into stars. Innocent salesgirl Tomoko (Nakamura Yuri) falls for Kenji’s smooth talk and ends up in a new profession. That would be sex then. Downstairs from Kenji, freelance writer Hiroshi (Minagawa Sarutoki) masturbates to the sound of his neighbour’s sexual marathons. He can’t understand why he has no luck with women. The fact that he talks to his penis probably has something to do with it. A penis that looks very much like a green puppet. Make no mistake about it, Lala Pipo sits just south of sanity.
After a drunken encounter with fat girl Sayuri (Murakami Tomoko), Hiroshi takes off on an unexpected journey with hilarious consequences. As for Sayuri, she makes porn films for a living; porn films with a twist, that is. Misfit Koichi (Yoshimura Takashi) is constantly bullied by customers at the karaoke bar he works at, but he believes himself to be a superhero (so that's okay), dressing up in a Power Rangers outfit, and taking to the streets to fight crimes of a sexual nature. Middle-aged mother Yoshie (Hamada Mari) completes the picture, leading a secret life of her own in the porn industry. Sex, superheroes, and a furry green talking penis, what more could a film fan possibly ask for?
Considering Lala Pipo is billed as a sex comedy, there’s precious little sex to be found, so anybody expecting a quick fix will come away bone dry. Lala Pipo is a character driven comedy set in the seedy underworld of the porn industry. Except we’re forgetting one thing, Lala Pipo comes from the creative genius behind Kamikaze Girls, which means the porn industry can no longer be considered seedy. In the world of Lala Pipo, call girls are colourful creations, and porn stars are innocent and carefree. To put it frankly, the kind of girls you would take home to your mum.
Nakashima invites us into his bubblegum world, where flights of fancy take precedence over realism. That’s not to say there isn’t pain and misery, but in the candy-covered realm of Lala Pipo, even hurt and suffering seems kind of pleasant. It is a cruel world after all, and Masayuki Miyano has a lot of fun playing around with his protagonist's flaws. They are mostly weak, certainly vulnerable, and redeeming qualities are hard to find. Fortunately, the writing and performances ensure that you'll warm to their deluded plights, and did I mention the fact that Lala Pipo is one of the funniest films of the year? Laugh out loud funny is an overused phrase in this day and age, but you will laugh, usually at the expense of the hapless simpletons that grace this comic book world.
Flirting with dark and depressing issues, but making them seem fun and light-hearted, the film explored themes of loneliness, depression and self-loathing, but the use of outlandish comedy ensures that it never takes itself too seriously. Make no mistake about it, this is the best movie Tetsuya Nakashima never made. Surreal, charming, incredibly funny and bright as a button.
The performances are impeccable, direction is assured and the writing is at times inspired. Fans of Kamikaze Girls will no doubt lap this up. It's another candy-covered delight from one of the most original filmmaking teams in the world today. Give the little green puppet a day off, watch Lala Pipo instead. You’ll be so glad you did. Recommended. AW