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Instant Swamp

(Insutanto numa / Instant numa)

North american Premiere

  • Japan 2009
  • 120 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles
North American Premiere

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Director: Satoshi Miki
Screenplay: Satoshi Miki
Cast: Kumiko Aso, Morio Kazama, Ryo Kase, Keiko Matsuzaka
Producers: Takeshi Suzuki
Distributor: Kadokawa


Haname is a lively and expressive young woman, blessed with a fertile imagination that occasionally conjures up some strange notions. She’s dissatisfied with her humdrum day-to-day life and dreams of changing it all (except of course for the mucky mixture she guzzles every morning, which she wouldn’t give up for the world). Moreover, despite the pronounced scepticism she holds towards the supernatural, a run of bad luck starts to convince Haname that she’s been cursed ever since she tossed into a swamp all the gifts her dad gave her on her eighth birthday, the day he left the family for good. Among the objects was a cat talisman, which must have been cursed. Since then, nothing’s gone right—the magazine she works for is on the verge of bankruptcy, recycling rockabillies have emptied her apartment, she’s misplaced her pet rabbit on a rabbit farm after it lost its hat, and her mother’s in the hospital after she nearly drowned while trying to fish for spirits with a pickle. But thanks to a letter her mom wrote just before the accident, Haname locates her father, an “antique dealer” named Light Bulb, and meets a punk rocker named Gus. Can they perhaps help her out of the mire her life has become?

So INSTANT SWAMP sounds pretty bizarre, does it? Well, let us tell you, the synopsis above is perfectly logical compared to the actual film itself! The inspired madman behind this cavalcade of craziness, who gleefully upends and derides a variety of beliefs and superstitions, is none other than Satoshi Miki, the same filmmaker who bowled us all over last year with ADRIFT IN TOKYO. His new work reprises his fondness for weird haircuts, characters in search of father figures and introducing his audiences to unfamiliar and distinctive locales. This time around, his imagery is again stupendous, getting the most out of his unusual settings in urban and rural Japan. The way the Miki visualizes the memories and daydreams of his characters recalls Jeunet’s AMELIE. Kumiko Aso’s performance suits the very manga-esque tone of INSTANT SWAMP, which makes fine use of all manner of comedic styles—the absurd, the wry, the obtuse and the slapstick alike. And if you can guess how it all ends ahead of time, we salute you!

—Nicolas Archambault (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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