Starring: Haruka Ayase, Kentarô Sakaguchi, Kazuki Kitamura
Director: Hideki Takeuchi
Running Time: 109 mins
Tonight At The Movies is a Japanese film about a man who loves watching old movies at his small local cinema, when one day the beautiful protagonist of his favourite film comes off the screen and into his world.
The term ‘style over substance’ really comes into mind when watching this film. Although Tonight At The Movies is a blissfully nostalgic and heartfelt film, complete with gorgeous visuals, it really doesn’t have the emotional depth of some of the movies it’s trying to emulate, and although it may make for a pleasant (albeit cheesy) romance, it just misses the mark when it comes to really delivering a stunning movie about movies.
Now, from the word go, it’s clear that this film is paying homage to some classics of world cinema. First off, let’s talk about the premise, which is highly reminiscent of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose Of Cairo. Featuring a character from a classic movie coming off the screen and into the real world, there’s a clear similarity, however the way in which the premise is used is what separates the two movies.
On the one hand, Tonight At The Movies uses the fun, fantastical premise to set up an enjoyable and light-hearted romance, but it doesn’t stand up to the way in which The Purple Rose Of Cairo so brilliantly satirises both the real world and the movie world through the same premise. In that, although this film is an enjoyable watch from the beginning, it really doesn’t have the brains or ingenuity to make for a more riveting watch.
Secondly, there’s a distinct feeling that this film is really trying to emulate the ultimate classic of cinema nostalgia: Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. After all, the story centres around a man who relishes spending time watching movies from the projector room of an old movie house, and feels a deep love for the movie world as a result.
Again, there are positives and negatives to this similarity. On the plus side, it’s really nice to see how this film emulates Cinema Paradiso because it reminds you of the magic of movies, calling back to a film that’s so deeply associated with a love for cinema, deepening the nostalgic atmosphere of the film significantly. On the downside, however, the nostalgia for cinema doesn’t stand up one bit to the mastery of Cinema Paradiso, and although it’s a pleasant and often heartwarming watch here, there’s always the memory of how powerful an experience Tornatore’s classic is, and just how much better the same premise can be.
In that, however, it’s clear that the film is seeped in a love for movies, and as such does prove an enjoyable and heartwarming watch for anyone with similar feelings. It may not have the same satirical brains as The Purple Rose Of Cairo, nor the stunningly deep emotional impact of Cinema Paradiso, but it’s a perfectly pleasant work of nostalgia throughout.
Of course, the film isn’t just about movies, because its main story is actually the romance that blossoms between our main man and the princess that emerges from the silver screen. Now, I’m all for a cute and simple romance, and there are times when this film manages to provide just that, however my overbearing impression of the central romantic plot remains one of frustration, given that everything is taken just a little too far in the end, and the romance is far more melodramatic and cheesy than it really deserves to be, often even trying to be a full-on tearjerker (which it most certainly isn’t).
So, the story is a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes it’s a pleasant and nostalgic movie about movies, and sometimes it’s just another cheesy, melodramatic romance.
However, if there’s one thing that really bowled me over in this film, then it’s the visuals, which are stunning. Above all in the first act, the way that the film contrasts the black-and-white character appearing off the screen and amongst a world of vibrant colours is absolutely amazing to witness, akin to the visual delights of the brilliant (and massively underrated) Pleasantville.
Of course, this film doesn’t utilise the visuals to as deeply an impressive level as Pleasantville, but the stark visual contrast between black-and-white and such eye-poppingly vibrant colours throughout is a real delight to see, constantly lifting the spirits of the movie amidst all of the cheesiness and keeping things really enjoyable and energetic from beginning to end.
Overall, then, Tonight At The Movies may pale in comparison to the films it’s paying homage to, as well as falling flat with a melodramatic romantic story, however it’s still a film with truly wonderful visuals, good heart and a such a strong love for the art of the movies that you’ll still have a