An attempt by an independent theatre company to expand into filmmaking appears to have resulted in one of the best science fiction films of recent years. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is an instant cult classic, and represents a dizzying achievement from an unlikely source.
Kato (Kazunori Tosa) is the owner of a small Kyoto cafe who discovers the television in his apartment and a computer monitor in his cafe downstairs have somehow become linked: a person can talk into one and be seen and heard in the other. The catch? The two screens are precisely two minutes out of synch, giving Kato and his friends a short, unexpected window into the future.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, which is directed by Junta Yamaguchi from a screenplay by Makoto Ueda, was born out of Japanese theatre troupe Europe Kikaku electing to expand out of live performance into producing its first feature film. Shot with a limited cast in a single location, and edited together with long takes to form one seamless single 70-minute shot, it provides a simple rigid framework around which the most jaw-dropping of science fiction comedies can be told.
The science fiction potential of the piece does not immediately seem obvious. A person can speak to themselves with a two-minute delay by speaking in the apartment and then running down to the cafe to repeat the same conversation 120 seconds later – but so what? How much can someone affect their own destiny by seeing two minutes ahead? It is only when one of Kato’s friends suggests bringing the television down to the cafe, and pointing television and monitor directly at one another, that the dizzying possibilities of the film’s set-up become clear. It represents the equivalent of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet on one-tenth of its catering budget. It is Shane Carruth’s Primer with jokes. If the presentation of speculative science in a fictional context represents science fiction at its most pure, then Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is one of the most well-distilled examples of the genre in years. It cannot be emphasised enough that this film is genuinely clever stuff.
In case viewers were not already impressed, this remarkable science fiction escapade then plays out as a perfectly-pitched comedy. Kato is quick to doubt his discovery will lead to a good outcome, but his friends immediately treat it first as the world’s greatest novelty trick and then as an opportunity to profit. Their excitement is infectious, and is boosted by energetic, heightened performances from the entire supporting cast. The idea-per-minute ratio here is cranked to an extreme, and with each hilarious set piece the film veers left and right into increasingly unexpected directions.
This is a movie that makes one want to grab their friends by both shoulders and passionately enthuse the film’s worth to them. Its clever long-take camera work gives it a fresh immediacy. Its ideas genuinely rival any science fiction film released over the past decade. Its comedy is broad, effective, and enormously appealing. Its attention to detail would look tois going to reward subsequent viewings. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes deserves every success, and as large an international audience as possible. It is cult cinema par excellence.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is streaming on demand as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. For Canadian readers, the festival takes place in person and online from 5-25 August. For more information, click here.
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