Japan Cuts 2021: B/B – Offensive and Irritating

Rather than watching B/B, I recommend that you do any amount of research into Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Sadly, Kosuku Nakahama’s debut feature is yet another film that exploits DID for cinematic gain, turning a disorder into a thriller plot point – as well as a comedic expression.

Though the narrative is irresponsible, it is worth noting that this is a debut film from an up-and-coming filmmaker. This is evident through the work but there are also signs of promise here. Everything is overdone – primarily over stylised – but it is not a bad looking film. The stylisations also display a level of intentionality, it may not work but it is trying to communicate something outside of mere continuity. Though, this takes us back to the central issue: what it is trying actually to communicate.

We begin the film with a framing device, and some oddly superfluous details. We have the plot point that the Olympics have been cancelled, here due to corruption and a failed attack. This is all tangentially linked to what the plot becomes and is ultimately an extraneous distraction. It is perhaps the first example of the film giving itself artificial edge, and is the progenitor of its insistent insertions of pop-cultural references for the sake of it. Here, our main character mentions how the writer of the manga Akira (1982) had predicted this, later we have random quoting of Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid videogame series and just general cultural affectations throughout. It all feels very superficial, a writer’s voice overpowering characters.

B/B. Dir. Kosuku Nakahama

The actual plot is much more simple: a convenience store owner has been murdered. Our main character, Sana (Karen), had been in contact with the son of the store owner, Shiro (Koshin Nakazawa). Therefore, Sana is being interrogated by the authorities in order to shine a light on the case. Sana has DID. This is conveyed in two different ways in the film, both are bad. During this framing device, eye twitches (through closeups) and purposefully disorientating editing (sharp cuts, multiple perspective changes, camera movement) are used to convey the disorder. It is very gimmicky and seems disrespectful. Rather than empathising with its lead, or trying to present a real thing with realism, or restraint, it wants to be edgy. It wants to be stylish.

Outside of the interrogations, we have flashbacks that build up what happened. These are really off-putting. To begin with, there’s a poorly managed comic tone. An invasive and jaunty comic score is combined with the affected screenplay, the end result being an ‘oh-so-quirky’ sensibility. This is both independently annoying and speaks to the treatment of DID. Here, DID is represented on screen by our character being surrounded by other characters (representations of ‘different personalities’), who bicker, fight and interact in general. They are a crude assortment of one note caricatures and the representation of the disorder could not be more distancing. Again, it feels like a comedic quirk and this visualisation extrapolates it from the reality. We do not see a person having to live with something and how it affects them, we merely have an excuse for a cinematic device. It is exploitative.

From here, the narrative is pretty uninteresting. The tone changes and it gets darker, in an unearned and faux-gritty way. The films attempts to have meaning and substance but cannot really muster it, at all points undermined by a disrespectful framing. So, while there is promise here, there is not actually much to like. DID is used as either an acting challenge, a story device or as a clichéd cinematic expression. It all feels outdated, disrespectful and irritating, the kind of thing you hoped cinema had moved on from.

2/10

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