FANTASIA FEST 2022: ‘Conveinence Story’ Is a Bonkers Look At The Creative Process

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Convenience Story

Convenience Story is co-written and directed by Satoshi Miki. Kato (Ryo Narita) is a struggling screenwriter whose life is hitting a series of roadblocks. Despite his best efforts, no studio is accepting his scripts. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, his relationship with superstar actress Zigzag (Yuki Katayama) is on the rocks. While out shopping for dog food for Zigzag’s puppy Cerberus, a car accident sends Kato flying into another realm…and a convenience store occupied by married couple Nagumo (Seiji Rokkaku) and Keiko (Atsuko Maeda). Kato slowly finds the inspiration he needs for his latest screenplay while finding himself being slowly drawn to Keiko. 

Many films that aspire to be “avant-garde” usually mistake having bold imagery as a substitute for actually developed characters and a solid story. Take last year’s Fantasia entry Hotel Poseidon: it looked appropriately disturbing but had all the depth of a kiddie pool. And then there’s Everything Everywhere All At Once; it throws over a dozen mind-melting visuals and concepts on the screen, but each and every one of those ideas is grounded in the themes of generational trauma and how our choices shape our lives.

Convenience Story falls somewhere in between the two. While it isn’t as thoughtful as EEAAO, Miki manages to film scenes in a way that represents Kato’s inner struggles.. When the film opens, Miki chooses to zero in on Kato sitting in his cramped apartment, reading a script to himself and clearly disappointed with how it’s going. Cerberus barks and jumps all around the place, and Zigzag keeps butting in to see what he’s doing. In contrast, once Kato is sent to the mysterious world, there are longer, sweeping shots of his new horizon. The store itself looks like a tornado hit it, with shelves scattered everywhere – yet Nagumo and Keiko still live there. Nagumo also conducts an orchestra, with the members consisting of various speakers. And an amber filter covers the entire scene, giving the film an unsettling effect.

However, it feels like one or two ideas don’t really connect. Chief among them is the slowly budding relationship between Kato and Keiko. Not only does it come out of nowhere, but it slots Keiko into the overdone “Maniac Pixie Dream Girl” trope. It just feels like she’s there to inspire Kato’s script and give him a reason to break things off with Zigzag, and to be fair it feels like a waste of Maeda’s talents – especially given her turn in Shin Godzilla.

Despite this, Miki gets a great performance out of his leading man. This isn’t Narita’s first time starring in a movie where his character is part of an alternate world – Belle, anyone? – and his performance throughout the film is a wonder to behold. In the beginning, he’s crouched in a corner, questioning his creativity. But as the film goes on, he starts to remember why he fell in love with writing and even starts smiling more. And it’s a genuine smile, which says far more than words ever could. 

Convenience Story takes a visually inventive and immensely hilarious look at the creative process. While Miki’s other Fantasia entry What To Do With The Dead Kaiju? Is the better film, this film isn’t without its pleasures. In fact, I smell a cult classic in the making.

Convenience Story had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2022.


Convenience Story
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Convenience Story takes a visually inventive and immensely hilarious look at the creative process. While Miki’s other Fantasia entry What To Do With The Dead Kaiju? Is the better film, this film isn’t without its pleasures. In fact, I smell a cult classic in the making.

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