Review: Social media obsession beckons in Japanese cyber-gothic ‘A Bride for Rip Van Winkle’

Cocco, left, and Haru Kuroki in the film "A Bride for Rip Van Winkle."
(Chigi Kanbe / Eleven Arts)

A soft-spoken teacher with a social media dependence endures a twisty emotional road in Japanese filmmaker Iwai Shunji’s overlong yet alluring “A Bride for Rip Van Winkle,” a movie that could be described as contemporary cyber-gothic. We meet recessive, unguarded Nanami (Haru Kuroki) when she meets her future husband, Tetsuya (Gô Jibiki), through her favorite app.

It also introduces her to a mysterious hipster businessman named Amaro (Gô Ayano) who promises to help Nanami pad her wedding with fake relatives. That’s just the first of three hours in an odyssey of misfortune and deception for Nanami that, after her marriage’s collapse, sees her take a job as a maid in a disused mansion alongside a friendly, force-of-nature actress named Mashiro (a magnetic Cocco).

By the time the two develop a swooning attachment to each other that involves intimate karaoke and a romp in rented wedding gowns, we’ve grown accustomed to the abiding strangeness of Iwai’s vision of our tenuously connected modern world.

Long a sensitive if coolly precious arbiter of haunted loneliness (“All About Lily Chou-Chou,” “Vampire”), Iwai, with his woozy, hovering camera, could be accused of emotional cruelty for what he puts Nanami through on her path to self-awareness about others’ machinations and her own fragility. But the path beckons, as in a fractured fairy tale — or any peril-laden quest for love — in which the air of something vaguely threatening is never far behind the pockets of comfort.



‘A Bride for Rip Van Winkle’

In Japanese with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 58 minutes


Playing: Laemmle Royal, West L.A.

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