Japanese film “It’s a Summer Film” is as perky and lively as you can expect from its very title. Mainly revolving around one modest but amusing filmmaking process, the movie gives us a series of funny moments to be appreciated by anyone interested in filmmaking, and it is also surprisingly poignant as bringing certain genre elements into the story.
The heroine of the story is a plain high school girl nicknamed “Barefoot” (Marika Itô), who has been quite passionate about filmmaking as driven by her genuine aspiration of becoming a filmmaker. Not so surprisingly, she is the member of a filmmaking circle in her high school, and she hopes to make a little Samurai film of her own someday, but, to her disappointment, the recent funding for her filmmaking circle goes to Karin (Mahiru Koda) instead, a popular pretty girl who loves to make romance films. I do not know whether she is really talented or not, but Karin can always have a number of students willing to help her filmmaking, and Barefoot cannot help but envy Karin even though she thinks Karin is not so serious about filmmaking in contrast to her.
At least, Barefoot gets some comfort from her two close friends, who are nicknamed “Kickboard” (Yumi Kawai) and “Blue Hawaii” (Kirara Inori), respectively. Kickboard is more interested in astronomy while Blue Hawaii is more enthusiastic about swordsmanship, but both of them understand well how much their close friend wants to make a Samurai film, and there is a sweet little moment as they watch several old Samurai films together in their little private place.
When they later find that Barefoot has actually written the screenplay for her future Samurai film, Kickboard and Blue Hawaii sincerely encourage her to make it for herself, but Barefoot still hesitates. Sure, there is a good way to earn enough money to fund their little film production, but the movie needs an actor to play its Samurai hero, and Barefoot is not so sure about whether she can find the right guy for the role.
And then, what do you know, something quite fortunate happens by sheer coincidence. When she later comes into an old local theater for watching another old Samurai movie, Barefoot happens to spot a dashing lad named Rintaro (Daichi Kaneko), and he looks quite suitable for her as the lead actor of her movie. To her bafflement, he attempts to run away from her when she approaches to him, but he is eventually persuaded to accept her request, and he even helps her earning the money for her film production.
Once they get enough money for funding the film production, Barefoot and her two friends recruit several other lads who will handle several technical aspects of their film production. In case of one lad, he happens to have a bicycle attached with many lighting equipments, and that surely helps the shooting when Barefoot and others need extra lighting.
Although the first day of their film production is not so productive due to their inexperience, Barefoot and her small crew gradually improve themselves step by step. While her screenplay still does not have an ending good enough for her, Barefoot keeps going enthusiastically along with others, and she even gets an unexpected help from Karin, who turns out to be more decent and generous than Barefoot thought.
Meanwhile, the story becomes a little more serious when Rintaro’s big secret is revealed later in the story. I will not go into details here for not spoiling your fun, but I can tell you instead that the movie made me muse a bit on the past, present, and future of cinema. For a little more than 100 years, movie has amazed, touched, and entertained us as the projection of our emotion and imagination, but there have also been some serious doubts on the future of cinema during recent years, and movies may become things of past even before the end of this century – or my inconsequential life, shall we say.
Nevertheless, the movie keeps its head high just like its plucky heroine. While still struggling with getting the right ending for her movie, Barefoot keeps trying her best for her little first film, and her two friends stand by her as usual, though they have some small conflict among them as they all find themselves infatuated with Rintaro in one way or another. After all, he is a fairly handsome dude, and the movie has some extra fun as Barefoot and her two friends try to sort out their respective complicated feelings toward Rintaro.
Around the point where Barefoot finally comes to show her completed film to her audiences, the movie stumbles a bit, but it somehow lands well on the finale where fiction and reality humorously and touchingly resonate with each other. As observing this moment, I was reminded again that movies still matter to us at least for now, and my longtime passion on movies was energized by that. Yes, considering the current status of the human civilization, movies may not last that long, but they are worthwhile to remember and cherish as long as we can, aren’t they?
On the whole, “It’s a Summer Film” is a small but likable movie about filmmaking, and I think it will make a nice double feature show along with another recent Japanese film “One Cut of the Dead” (2017), which also deals with filmmaking process with lots of humor and sincerity. Both of them will assure you that cinema will remain alive and well as long as those numerous filmmakers keep trying and dreaming out there, and you may come to appreciate their efforts more than before.