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Poetics of the ethereal – the films of Chihiro Ito at 17th Five Flavours

05 October 2023
In Her Room, dir. Chihiro Ito

Unexpected, filled with erotic tension and discovering the spiritual dimension of existence. The cinema of Chihiro Ito seems to belong to an alternate reality. The audiences of Five Flavours will have a chance to see two films of the artist whose cinema is a breath of fresh air in recent Japanese independent cinema. The director herself will be the Festival guest.

Chihiro Ito may not yet be a household name in the world of film, but the Japanese director has already proven she has a lot of talent and sensitivity. She may be just beginning her career as film director, but her artistic output has been recognized for years – she has been a successful writer, screenwriter, and playwirght. Before turning to the camera, she wrote a few novels and film scripts (including one for Isao Yukisada).

Both in literature and cinema, her main interest is the body. The strength of Chihiro Ito's stories lies not in the dialog, but in the particular, sensuous ambiance she creates. Her film worlds are ethereal – elusive, enigmatic, even ghoulish. Her films can easily be put side by side with the cinema of Ryūsuke Hamaguchi or Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Her poetics is built around a fascination with body on the one hand, and the search of the non-human on the other. This is why Chihiro Ito is seen as an original voice of the Japanese arthouse cinema.

The artist, still undiscovered in Poland, will visit Warsaw with her two films. The erotic drama "In Her Room" will be presented as a Special Screening, and the spectral "Side by Side" will be shown in the competition section. "In Her Room" tells the story of a shy dentist involved in a passionate relationship with a mysterious woman. "Side by Side" is a look at the relationship between an individual and nature, a fantasy about an alternate reality. Both films will be available both in cinema and online. The Festival screenings of "Side by Side" will be the film's European premiere.

In Her Room

Hitoribocchi ja nai
dir. Chihiro Ito, Japan 2022, 136’
[cinema + online]

Every day after work, a shy dentist visits a mysterious woman. In her room, the couple talks about the sensual reception of the world and their fantasies. Their sensations are enhanced by the lush greenery filling the room. In this space encrusted with plants, the protagonists feel like they were back in the mother's womb – safe and surrounded by warmth. This is their comfort zone, a haven for their spiritual and corporeal explorations. This harmony is shaken by the arrival of a third party. The unusual triangle will take a life of its own, fueled by jealousy and a spiral of irrational decisions.

Chihiro Ito's calm debut seduces and hypnotizes. "In Her Room" is a film filled with ambivalence – on the one hand, it is an empathetic look at the need for closeness, on the other, a diagnosis of loneliness that brings about more questions than answers.

Side by Side

Saido bai saido tonari ni iru hito
dir. Chihiro Ito, Japan 2023, 130’
[cinema + online]

Miyama is a young man of an unknown past. Apart from the fact that he is with Shiori, we know very little about his life. He suddenly appeared in a small town in the Nagano prefecture, and the locals welcomed him with open arms – all because of his ability to fell the thoughts of others. His unique talent turns him into a local witch doctor. At the same time, he is an attentive listener, tuned to the physical and emotional ills of his surroundings. But the spiritual transformations of Miyama's "patients" take a toll on his own psyche. With time, his seemingly idyllic daily life becomes inhabited by a host of mysterious apparitions that only he can see.

"Side by Side" is a visual meditation on the way in which the human and the non-human elements come together in the world of nature. This is a film that leaves its footprint on the body and invites the audiences to look around and within themselves.

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