Fantasia Film Festival: It’s a Summer Film! (サマーフィルムにのって) Review

It's a Summer Film!

Looking at Soushi Matsumoto’s It’s a Summer Film, you wouldn’t expect the film to be a swiss-army knife kind of flick. However, the film features an eclectic mix of many genres. First of all, much of the film’s entertainment stems from the idea of creating your own movie as children. Whether you knew it or not, you had an inherent process of creating a movie whenever you played with toys as kids. Imagine, for example, using gift wrap tubes as lightsabers when you’re either the villain or hero. In a way, you’re pretending that you’re the character in your own roleplay movie. Some just take it a bit further than others.

In the case of Barefoot, creating a samurai film is a move several years in the making. She’s living the dream every child had back when they were playing outside—whether they admit it or not. I, for one, have always wanted to make a Star Wars flick full of lore and lightsabers. So seeing Barefoot’s journey to make a movie with her friends just spoke to me on a spiritual level. It’s a Summer Film also showcases the joys of films — more specifically samurai movies. 

For those completely unaware, samurai films have been a staple of Japanese cinema for several decades now. While Westerns or pirate movies have come and gone over the years, samurai films never went out of style in Japan. It’s a Summer Film celebrate all of the different eras of samurai movies. From Kenji Misumi’s Zatoichi to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, It’s a Summer Film pays homage to them all by highlighting their importance in inspiring generations of filmmakers. It’s not just the George Lucas generation of filmmakers, but it’s this generation as well.

It’s a Summer Film! is also a delightfully sweet coming-of-age adventure that provides an uncynical look at the joys of childhood.

However, the movie isn’t just about the making of Barefoot’s Samurai SpringIt’s a Summer Film‘s inherent charm comes from the adventures of this ragtag team of kids. Similar to the magic of films like The Sandlot, the throwback to the summer adventures with your friends is a feeling that this movie fondly reminisces on. None of this would work if it weren’t for the chemistry and direction of Matsumoto. Yet the real highlight is the spunky and vulnerable performance of Marika Itô. Even at a young age, Itô has the ability to carry the movie with her wide-ranging performance.

Weirdly enough, It’s a Summer Film has an unexpected sci-fi twist as well. It will throw off some people, and it may ruin this fun Sandlot-style movie. However, Rintaro’s storyline fits in perfectly with the theme of celebrating movies. In an age where 60-second TikToks and binging Netflix rule, it has subsequently lowered the attention span of society. So Rintaro’s storyline tells us that the current attention span of civilization will eventually lead to the loss of full-length movies.

Now, if that wasn’t enough, It’s a Summer Film has a love story in it as well. It’s not the most compelling storyline in the film, but it’s a plot device to progress Barefoot’s arc. She is essentially the “shrew” in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. She is a spunky and determined character who is unwilling to be the maiden in her story. After all, she does have a strong dislike for romantic comedies. Little does she know that she ultimately ends up living her own romantic comedy.

Anchored by the loveable chemistry of this wonderful cast, It’s a Summer Film is a fantastic myriad of genres that celebrates the magic of movies. Not to mention, the film is also a delightfully sweet coming-of-age adventure that provides an uncynical look at the joys of childhood.

Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

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