Gilbert & Sullivan often used mistaken identity as a plot device in their comic operas. So do playwrights, screenwriters, and anyone else who is looking for a surprise ending.
Once a writer decides to incorporate a mistaken identity into his plot, sustaining the suspense -- or the joke -- requires great skill (not only from the writer but from the directors and performers as well). Substance, style, trust, and timing all become key factors in achieving maximum impact.
* * * * * * * * *Atsushi Ogata's new film, Cast Me If You Can (which was recently screened at the 2010 Mill Valley Film Festival), is a perfect case in point. Ogata focuses his lens on the predicament of the professional supporting actor who is often chosen for character roles.
An actor's reward for frequent character work is that audiences come to know his face. The downside of such work (at least for the unfortunate Hiroshi Matsuzaki) is that his character roles keeps intruding on his personal life.
Hiroshi (Toru Masuoka) is a character actor whose father is a famous Japanese playwright. Because Hiroshi is also a bit of klutz, he frequently ends up in embarrassing situations where others assume that he is the same person they have seen on screen (a policeman, kidnapper, thief, pervert). His life becomes a living hell after a florist runs out of a shop with a large bouquet of flowers, points to a woman walking down the street, and informs Hiroshi that the woman forgot to take her flowers with her.
Proving that no good deed goes unpunished, Hiroshi grabs the flowers, runs after Toshiko Kuroiwa (Keiko Matsuzaka) and, as he trips and falls to the ground, aims the flowers toward her. Little does he know that Toshiko is married to a member of Japan's parliament or that she has been carrying on a torrid affair with Masaru (Tasuku Emoto), a young man half her age.
|Tatsuko Emoto as the boy toy, Masaru|
When Hiroshi's photo appears in the tabloids and he is mistakenly identified as Toshiko's lover, all hell breaks loose. Toshiko's jealous husband manages to get Hiroshi fired from his next job (in which he was to have his first starring role as the Japanese equivalent of Woody Allen in a remake of one of Allen's films). Hiroshi's attempts to get his job back -- or to get any more jobs -- run into trouble when his long-time manager drops him from his roster of clients.
Meanwhile, aspiring and idealistic actress Aya (Hiromi Nagasaku), who has been trying to strike up a friendship with the brooding and cynical Hiroshi, becomes best friends with Hiroshi's father (Masahiko Tsugawa).
|Kenta Matsuzaki (Masahiko Tsugawa ), Aya (Hiromi Nagasagku ) |
and Hiroshi Matsuzaki ( Toru Masuoka)
Aya eventually becomes Hiroshi's muse and, thanks to the intervention of the American casting director for the Woody Allen remake (Edith Hanson), the film has a happy ending in which Hiroshi's father confesses that he always wanted to be an actor but had no talent. As the film ends, the father drives out to the airport in one of Hiroshi's police costumes to pick up his wife and, upon his return, is mistaken for a real policeman by someone whose house has just been robbed.
The film is directed with a sly charm by Ogata (who also appears as a convenience store clerk) and proves to be an extremely polite romantic comedy. Here's the trailer:
|Megan Cavanagh with the cast of A Funny Thing Happened|
on the Way to the Forum (Photo by: David Allen)
|Senex (Bob Greene), (Pseudolus (Mega Cavanaugh ), |
Hysterium (Michael Rhone) and Marcus Lycus (Rudy Guerrero) perform
"Everybody Ought To Have a Maid" (Photo by: David Allen)
Both factors were noticeably absent from 42nd Street Moon's production.