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Wedding receptions in Japan tend to be ceremonious affairs. At least that was my impression until I saw Daigo Matsui’s frenetic “Remain in Twilight,” which revolves around a raucous dance number performed at a wedding reception by six guys in red fundoshi (loincloths).

However, the film, based on Matsui’s original script, is not primarily a comedy about this wacky breach of nuptial decorum. Instead, it’s a group portrait of guys who bonded in high school and, though they later went their separate ways, revert to their schoolboy personas when they get together. The effect on this outsider was somewhat like wandering into a karaoke room full of tanked strangers bellowing off-key and trading in-jokes; I wanted to beat a hasty exit.

I stuck it out, though, and saw that the film had a purpose beyond high-decibel hijinks. The friends reunite after a five-year gap to not only put on a show and have a laugh but also to mourn the death of one of their number — who is still among them as a very live-looking ghost.

Remain in Twilight (Kurenazume)
Rating
Run Time 96 mins.
Language Japanese
Opens Coming soon

This mix of fantasy, comedy and drama, which suddenly shifts from frantic jokiness to stylized seriousness, with the six locking into similar expressions and poses for dramatic effect, might have worked better on stage. Not surprisingly, Matsui has extensive experience as a theater director.

Likewise, the film’s socially awkward Kinichi Fujita (Kengo Kora) manages a theatrical comedy troupe, and the brusque Tetsuya Akashi (Ryuya Wakaba) is one of his actors. We never glimpse their work, though Kinichi is in charge of choreographing the dance, which is a revival of one they performed — disastrously — at a high school culture festival.

As the story flashes back again and again to the pasts of these and other members of the sextet, their personalities and relationships fitfully emerge from the chaos. The focus settles on Kazuki Yoshio (Ryo Narita), who in high school was an unworldly, wimpy kid with a crush on the bossy, bespectacled Mikie (Atsuko Maeda), though he never breathed a word of his feelings. His best pal is Yusaku “Neji” Mizushima (Rikki Metsugi), a tender-hearted lunk who was only one of the group to remain in their native Shizuoka, working at a local screw factory.

Meanwhile, the one giving Kazuki the most grief back in the day was Hironari “Hiro” Tajima (Kisetsu Fujiwara), a cheeky underclassman who later became an unhappy salaryman resentful of the free-and-easy lives of others in the gang. Finally, there is Taku “Sauce” Sogawa (Kenta Hamano), a pint-sized ball of fire who, as an adult, is the group’s only father and married man. But he’s also the one pushing hardest for more fundoshi fun post-reception.

The backstories of the six, presented in disjointed fragments, don’t quite convince us to care for these guys in the present, as memories surface and true feelings emerge. Nonetheless, the loss of one resonates over the surface noise, aided by Narita’s nuanced portrayal of Kazuki, who matures from lovable weirdo to ruefully wised-up adult, while keeping the kid inside alive.

But as much as Matsui wanted to bring his ensemble piece to an elegiac close, he couldn’t help inserting one last rude take-flight-from-reality gag. Not to give anything away, but if lip-farting angels is your idea of funny, this could be your movie.

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