Third Window Films hit the jackpot a few years ago by releasing the microbudget sleeper hit One Cut of the Dead, which was a sensation inside and outside Japan thanks to Third Window’s champion-level curation of contemporary Japanese cinema (poorly underrepresented by modern boutique labels of the west). So it’s not surprising to see them hit paydirt again with Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, a wonderful noodle-baking exercise in low-budget science-fiction.
Making his debut, Junta Yamaguchi directs and screenwriter Makoto Ueda (of Summer Time Machine Blues fame) returns to his regular time-bending stomping ground with a simple premise: Café owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) discovers his PC monitor, as connected to his café TV downstairs, shows what will occur two minutes into the future. The film’s gimmick is that it is shot as one take, and although it’s clear to see where cuts must exist, it’s an effective rendering of real-time time travel. Over time, Kato and his friends find ways to mirror the screens and travel even further into the future.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes draws both tension and pleasure from the audience wondering what will happen, seeing how foretold events play out, and how time travel can resolve the sticky situations these characters create for themselves — a lot of great “how will that happen? OHHH!” moments that are a treat. The two-minute time-travel block also lets the film do interesting things while remaining grounded (at least as far as time-travel tales can be). It’s a neat, tidy narrative that’s tight as a drum and engaging without being confounding — a 70-minute affair confident enough in its execution to avoid needless stretching-out. The entire cast is also on point, resembling regular people wrestling with an interesting phenomenon —mostly having fun and freaking out.
Third Window’s Blu-ray looks great, sounds terrific, and is region-free, meaning anyone anywhere can enjoy this release, and there’s a small set of extras, but they’re all good. The 20-minute making-of documentary impressively shows how a dedicated cast, a GoPro and a good script can make a great movie. Yamaguchi also offers an interview with additional context. Howling, a short film made as proof of concept, is also included. The release continues Third Window’s commitment to bringing overlooked Japanese cinema to western audiences, a generosity for which I’m thankful.