“The miller of time has struck us!” A friend shouts. “We can see the future of the future! Another exclaims.
This kind of genuinely wacky dialogue resonates throughout the light but endearing mind-blowing Japanese “Beyond Two Infinite Minutes”. For his directorial debut, Junta Yamaguchi and his team achieved an impressive feat of directing, capturing the entire film in one uninterrupted take on a smartphone.
The story centers on the quiet and ordinary cafe owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa), who makes an extraordinary discovery: the television in his shop and the computer in his small apartment upstairs are somehow linked with a two minute delay, creating a time loop. While the idea lends itself better to a thought experiment than a narrative, the film is nonetheless a charming sci-fi adventure that offers a lot of fun in its 70-minute runtime.
Kato makes his discovery when his future self begins to speak to his present. He then has to run downstairs to the cafe to repeat the same conversation with his past. He is naturally hesitant to share his findings with others, but his employee, Aya, breathlessly invites friends to admire the novelty, going up and down the stairs to ensure continuity. As time travel often does, this upside-down Mobius concept tape crumples the brain – and ends up numbing it (double-watching multiple conversations from two different perspectives can get tedious).
The warm golds of the cafe and the sterile grays of Kato’s bedroom effectively create a visual distinction between the past and the future, between the bizarre and the ordinary. The camera follows the characters closely, developing a feeling of intimacy; its occasional instability contributes to the general feeling of disorientation evoked by the sinuous concept.
Aya and her friends are thrilled with what they call Time TV, or Droste TV (named after the Droste effect, an artistic technique where an image is placed inside of itself repeatedly) . They adopt this moniker when they bring the monitor downstairs to face the TV from the cafe, creating additional layers that allow them to see even further into the future, albeit always in two minute increments. The parts of the film in which Aya and her friends enthusiastically test the time loop, even playing a prank on themselves, are great. The ensemble’s cast is wide and awkward, all mouths gaping and eyes gleaming, and their energy is irresistible.
Meanwhile, the more cheerful the others, the more Kato stops; he is standing or sitting in a corner with an impenetrable expression on his face, warning the group not to push their reckless experiments too far with time. Relative newcomer Tosa is an effective foil to the exuberance of the rest of the cast.
As the friends rush deeper into their Escher-esque creation, the realization that they’re trapped by the time loop they’ve created slips in, and they encounter unexpected threats. Yet even in moments of danger, “Infinite Two Minutes” retains a sweet silliness and warmth; it’s rich in quirky little details – like the coveted zebra bug toy that Future Ozawa tells Past Ozawa he’ll win from a vending machine. Ozawa’s face lights up like a child on Christmas morning.
Time travel is a concept explored by countless films, but never quite like this one. Far from the seductive romance of “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, the rugged action of “The Terminator” or the oedipal shenanigans of “Back to the Future”, Yamaguchi explores a particularly heady concept with an engaging sense of play. While Makoto Ueda’s script can be awkward and overly literal at times (one character actually says, “A paradox is happening”), perhaps part is lost in the translation, and the dialogue is. especially endearing in its width. Plus, despite all the craziness, the film still manages to be an intriguing meditation on predestination and the obsessive traps of the (admittedly near) future.
Anomaly – The Rochester Genre Film Festival presents “Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes” on Sunday, November 7 at 7:30 pm at the Little Theater, 240 East Avenue. $ 12 general admission, $ 10 students and seniors. Proof of vaccination, passport photo and mask required. 585-258-0400. anomaliefilmfest.com.
Ellen Mintzer is a member of the 2021-2021 cohort of the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Comments on this article can be directed to [email protected].