Sho Miyake’s And Your Bird Can Sing, based on a novel by the late Yasushi Sato, is sort of like Jules and Jim in Japan. The film version shifts the action of the novel from 1980s Tokyo to present day Hakodate. An unnamed protagonist (Tasuku Emoto, listed as “Me” in the credits) works as a part-time bookseller, and is friends and roommates with Shizuo (Shota Sometani), who is unemployed. “Me,” true to his hipster/slacker personality, takes a super casual approach to life, one that extends to his relationship with Sachiko (Shizuka Ishibashi), a coworker whom he begins dating. Though “Me” initially flubs things by standing Sachiko up on what was supposed to be their first date, soon, the two are sleeping together in “Me”‘s cramped bunkbed. Later, Shizuo expresses some vague romantic interest in Sachiko — and “Me” isn’t the least bit upset, even encouraging Shizuo to go for it.
The best feature of this lovely, beguiling film is how deftly it avoids romantic triangle clichés, structured as it is, instead, around lengthy scenes of the three young lovers hanging out, enjoying each other’s company at bars, karaoke joints, and nightclubs. The woozy, languid score — by DJ and producer Hi’Spec, who also cameos in a key scene here — is a crucial element, perfectly matching the physical and emotional drift of the film’s characters. This emphasis on mood and atmosphere, rather than conventional narrative, will no doubt frustrate viewers who, for some reason, want to see yet another variation on the tired scenario of two guys fighting over a woman. And Your Bird Can Sing is more interested in earnestly engaging with a joyous and poignant mood, one that lingers well beyond the final frame; it is a beautiful depiction of the attractions, and the limitations, faced by characters who reject societally imposed career ambitions and go with life’s flow.
Published as part of Japan Cuts 2019 | Dispatch 1.