Set in Tokyo at an unknown time when the Japanese yen has become the strongest currency in the world, an influx of immigrants, legal and illegal, come to work in the city. The immigrants give the city the nickname Yen Town. The Japanese natives, however, despise such a nickname, and in retribution call the immigrants Yen Thiefs. The story centers around a sixteen-year-old girl (Ito) whose mother has just died. The girl is passed on from person to person until she is taken in by a Chinese Yentowns prostitute named Glico (Chara), who names her Ageha (Japanese for swallowtail). Under Glico’s care, Ageha starts a new life. The immigrant characters, who speak Japanese, English, Mandarin, or Cantonese, earn their living by committing petty crimes and engaging in prostitution. Ageha does not participate in any of these activities, but is protected by Glico and the other immigrants. The film does not make clear whether Ageha is Japanese or an Asian immigrant. Eventually, due to a sudden twist in fate, the immigrants are given a chance to realize their various dreams. But in doing so, they destroy their solidarity, and have to face their problems separately. —Wikipedia
The standard bearer of the 1990s new wave of Japanese film, Shunji Iwai cranked out some of that country’s hippest, hottest, and most popular movies. A self-styled eizo sakka, or visual artist, Iwai is a filmmaker equally at home directing commercials, TV dramas, rock videos, and feature length pictures. Though older critics have blasted his films for lacking depth and for borrowing from 1970s experimental auteur Shuji Terayama, Iwai understands that for an audience weaned on MTV, the image is the movie. Slick and oozing with style, his films consistently have an uncanny resonance with 1990s Japanese pop culture, making him one of the most important directors of his generation.
Born on January 24th, 1963, in the northern city of Sendai, Iwai started his filmmaking career in 1988 directing music videos and television dramas. Though he was already garnering considerable buzz by 1993 for his acclaimed one-hour late-night TV dramas Fried Dragon Fish and Uchiage Hanabi: Shita kara… read more
Iwai Shunji is very skilled at creating such a raw and intricate story. Through all the grit, it still felt human. The characters felt real, and I still cared about them, even after the credits rolled. This film brought up so many emotions for me. The fact that this film is trilingual was a plus for me as well.