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Japan, 1996 (MIFF 1997, Young Asian Cinema)

Director: Yukinari Hanawa

Three strangers to Tokyo try to make sense of life, and maybe even love, in the city in this slick but substantial film set in and around back alleys, trains stations and jazzy nightclubs.

Zhou (Xiu Jian) is Chinese and has been in Tokyo for five years, but is still no closer to understanding it. He has a business - well, it's more like a scam - offering help to foreigners with false passports, stolen goods and arranged marriages for money; any currency will do. But Zhou's childhood lessons of Confucius haunt him as he continues this dishonourable life, and a young girl (Mika Takahashi) looking for anoth­er Zhou piques his interest.

Kazuo is Japanese but has been working in New York as an artist and is now back, trying to link up with his former girlfriend, Yoko. She, how­ever. is less than willing to renew the relation­ship. Ali, Pakistani and newly arrived in Tokyo is ripped off at every turn and thinks he has fallen in love with a girl in a convenience store.

The paths of these three men. and the women they are chasing, cross as each of them searches for some kind of understanding in this cold and unfamiliar city. With a vitality and a view of Tokyo that is both seedy and seductive, Tokyo Skin is a hip look at loneliness of the heart.

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