SDAFF 2014: ‘Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats’

You might giggle when you try to read the title of this Japanese or you might even offend someone who is adverse to four-lettered words. This 2014 movie, “Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats” is a gentle story about good and bad karma and high school regrets.

In Japanese the four-lettered word f**k and fuku are pronounced differently.  In this case, the fuku stands for 福 or “good fortune.” Double good fortune is still good, yet fuku can also mean to mope.  And there’s a lot of moping going around in this apartment complex.

Yosuke Fujita wrote and directs this movie which focuses on a likable guy who seems to embrace the solitary life. Yet it is not because he can’t make friends. The Fuku-chan of the title is the 32-year-old Tatsuo Fukuda (Miyuki Oshima).  The auspiciously named flats is really a run-down apartment building that he has been living in since he moved to Tokyo  after his junior high school graduation.

Fuku-chan is the peacemaker for two other single men living in the same complex. They become unlikely friends. Like many people Fuku-chan’s work isn’t especially inspiring, and he doesn’t try to make friends at work. In his spare time, he paints hand-made kites and flies them for fun. Flying kites seems like a solitary endeavor, but making kites for others is more sociable. You want people to like the designs. You want the designs to be admired.

The question then becomes: Why is Fuku-chan so withdrawn from others except those who are similarly single?

In another part of Japan, a young woman’s desire to become a photographer and be less ordinary results in a disaster. She wins a contest and she finally meets the art photographer she admired. Her prize is to work with the man who turns out to be a lecherous old man who tries to turn the photo session into a make out session. Her idol now off of the pedestal, she is directionless.

Told that she has bad karma, the woman, Chiho (Asami Mizukawa), remembers a mean prank she once played in high school. As you can probably guess, it involved the likable Fuku-chan. Chiho sets out to find forgiveness from Fukuda and by doing so, change her karma.

“Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats” is a small movie without great ambitions, but it does remind us that some acts that might be deemed cool are actually cruel. And those acts of cruelty can have long term effects on the victims as well as the perpetrators.  Unlike a Hollywood movie, the actors look like regular people, someone you might have known in high school or meet at your high school reunion.

“Fuku-Chan of Fukufuku Flats” was screening at the San Diego Asian Film Festival. The movie hasn’t been released in the United States, but has also been shown at the New York Asian Film Festival, the Hawaii Film Festival and the Reel Asian International Film Festival. This movie is sweet and funny. It’s a welcome change from the samurai movies that most people watch.

For those of us who were targeted by the mean girls and boys in school, this is a thoughtful look at life’s choices and consequences. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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