Film | Wide Angle

Prize-winning short 'Oh Lucy' brings humor to the classroom

by Giovanni Fazio

Given the potential global audience available on digital film platforms, it is surprising how few Japanese filmmakers have invested in foreign-language subtitles to get their films out there. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find director Atsuko Hirayanagi’s short comedy “Oh Lucy” up on Vimeo.

Hirayanagi, who hails from Nagano, shot this 22-minute short for her senior thesis at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and it did well on the festival circuit in 2014, including winning an award at Sundance.

Starring Kaori Momoi (known for “Kagemusha,” “Emperor” and the recent “Hee”), “Oh Lucy” follows an aging, single O.L. (office lady) named Setsuko who is conned by her maid-cafe cutie niece Yu-chan (Rian Nagashima) into taking some pricey eikaiwa (English conversation) lessons, where her teacher (Billy Scott) uses some unconventional methods to get his students to open up; in Setsuko’s case, that involves donning a curly blond wig and calling herself Lucy.

Hirayanagi has a good eye for the sometimes absurd nature of these exchanges, and how eikaiwa provides an excuse for some buttoned-up Japanese to release a more uninhibited persona. She’s so on the mark, it’s a shame the film ends just as it’s warming to the topic, but the good news is that Hirayanagi is developing the short into a full-length feature.

“Oh Lucy” is available for rent or purchase on Vimeo at vimeo.com/ondemand/ohlucy.

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