Could it be lonely if you do not feel it? Is learning meaningful if it is too late? What about thinking? Could you understand that fragments of memories or objects could be worthless to one person and mean the world to someone else?
Writer-cum-director Sion Sono's Tokyo Tribe premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival and was rather promoted by the organizers over the other Japanese entries at the festival. He is also a previous 'Midnight Madness' award winner at TIFF. Sono was back this year with a black and white film which appeals more to the palate of people not inclined to crowds, intensity or urban dancing. For one, The Whispering Star promised to be, unlike Tokyo Tribe, hip hop free. For another, the film is whisper quiet. Admittedly, the director's films are usually challenging, unconventional and adventurous. Moreover, having appreciated his films like Suicide Club or Cold Fish (also starring Megumi Kagurazaka whom I last saw in the impressive Jûsan-Nin No Shikaku and which was edited by Junichi Ito - both part of The Whispering Star) it was an easy matter to anticipate Sono's latest which had its world premiere the night of September fourteenth in Toronto. A TIFF programmer came on stage and described the film as "quiet science fiction," which it is when it is not in fact completely silent. Any words uttered are 'whispered.' Incidentally, the former Gravure Idol Kagurazaka is the wife of Sion Sono.
The curious premise is that of a 'feminine' android flying through space all alone, save for a computer, delivering packages for scattered human. This is a metaphor for the mistakes of humanity and the plight of the former residents of Fukushima, Japan, which took the brunt of an earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear reactor leak in 2010. The notion of one alone with her (its) thoughts is intriguing, but before elaborating on this it is worth mentioning the feeling that we have already seen a lone space traveller with a tape player in a little flick last year called... Guardians Of The Galaxy. The reels are not the only anachronistic mismatch. Our beautiful cyborg is powered by household batteries and reliant on vacuum tube computing, which comes with electricity plugs and an Edison bulb. It is all very Captain Protonish. Humans are scattered across the galaxy and 80% of beings are AI after humans committed a "mistake." Most interestingly, the spaceship is shaped like Japanese 'ie' or house. It is the consequence of humanity's destructive ways that the android has the job she has, but there is hardly anything organic to be found here. The android's loneliness during her voyages leads to philosophizing about its employers which is more than most humans can say about themselves. Having said that, as engaging as Hiso Hiso Boshi is it is barely science fiction in the same echelon as Blade Runner where the question of what constitutes alive or not is dissected. Comparing any film to Blade Runner is almost unfair. On its own, this film's downfall is clearly its ultra-slow pace. Even the spaceship seems to crawl forward in space. Couple that with the aforementioned murmuring tones, as well as deliberately sullen acting, lack of plot developments or colour, a dripping faucet and the director has indeed created a choking ambiance. Sure, The Whispering Star is contemplative, interesting and different and its analogy to names like BR, Guardians..., Hitchhiker Guide To The Galaxy or 2001 are only broadly genre-related and visual and that the director's focus on and signature Japanese flourishes are strong here even though on-stage he denied a direct Fukushima analogy and explained that the film is about human history. Speaking of which, the director and actress were on stage before and after the film for an introduction and to take questions from the audience. When asked by me whether this film suggest they have consciously or subconsciously matured all the director would say is that he is doing what he feels like doing. Someone asked about the sole splash of colour and the director offered that it represents a moment of nostalgia.
To depict parts of his fictional galaxy -' and carry his human folly message - Sion Sono shot much of the film in the Fukushima nuclear disaster area of eastern Japan and perhaps, not coincidentally, the area is the subject matter of his next project. He may be preoccupied with the disaster and the area as he also had a 2012 film on the topic called Kibo No Kuni ('Country Of Hope'). It is a measure of his devotion and unconventionality that he not only employed local non-actors to be on camera, but also filmed The Whispering Star in an evacuated disaster area. The film is mostly one of a solitary actress however. Ironically, the director claims to have had the outline of the script since 1990 - interestingly an early Sion film from this period called Keiko desu kedo featured a lone isolated female character - and have funded it entirely himself. Watch this film because it is certainly different. You either like the minimalistic motif or likely for the first and last time ever have the chance to see a Japanese-style house fly in space!
Review by aghaemi from the Internet Movie Database.