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Movie Critique: “Is This Heaven?” (2023) directed by Shinji Imaoka
Movie Critique: "Is This Heaven?" (2023) directed by Shinji Imaoka

Movie Critique: “Is This Heaven?” (2023) directed by Shinji Imaoka

Get ready for an otherworldly, circular display of ghosts. Shinji Imaoka (“Underwater Love”, 2011) takes control of the viewers for a 60-minute journey through the afterlife.

The film “Is This Heaven?” will be shown at Camera Japan.

Nobou is a man in his middle years who struggles with alcoholism. He embarks on a journey through a picturesque waterfront, encountering both familiar and unfamiliar faces from his past, including his wife. In this surreal afterlife, everyone is gleefully intoxicated, and all sounds are hushed. The story takes a turn when Nobou meets his wife’s deceased former husband, and their conversation becomes the emotional climax as they recall their unique memories with her.

Also, be sure to take a look at this interview.

Interview with Shinji Imaoka: Time as a healing tool for everything is a lie

Hidetoshi Kawaya, a seasoned actor known for his role in “Romance Doll” (2020), delivers a lively performance that carries the entire film and celebrates his character’s death. However, the film’s elliptical storytelling may be difficult for some viewers to follow. Director Imaoka takes risks by incorporating music and unconventional screenwriting techniques, introducing new characters and deviating from traditional filmmaking structures.

The tranquil atmosphere of the ocean complements the leisurely filming style, but fails to captivate the viewer’s interest. It also requires some adjustment to comprehend the abstract idea, which defies categorization. Straddling between comedy and tragedy, “Is This Heaven?” toys with the intangibility of existence and the unpredictability of life. As Nobuo struggles to define his surroundings, the entire story feels like a hazy dream that could be interrupted at any moment by reality. Yet, amidst this uncertainty, there is a serene calm and a sense of a greater power orchestrating all the encounters we witness.

Shinji Imaoko, a renowned filmmaker in the Pink Film industry and also known as one of the “Seven Lucky Gods of Pink,” has an impressive resume of over 40 films. He has been in the industry for nearly 30 years. “Is this Heaven?” follows the trend in Imaoka’s films, transitioning from explicit nudity to exploring deeper themes such as relationships and the human experience. The movie presents a unique concept of serene beach vibes and heavy drinking, making it appealing to its audience.