Thoughts on Chiwawa (Chiwawa-chan / チワワちゃん 2019)

In Chiwawa (Chiwawa-chan / チワワちゃん 2019), a group of friends get their hands on a truckload of money, burn through it in three days, and drift out of each other’s lives. Then, we learn in the opening scene, Chiwawa (Shiori Yoshida), the new friend they met that very night who spearheaded the dumbest robbery in cinema history, winds up dead, her body parts tossed into the sea. To counter the moralistic news reports focusing on Chiwawa’s promiscuity and party lifestyle, Miki (Mugi Kadowaka) canvasses their shared group of friends for their memories of her—despite the fact that Chiwawa stole her boyfriend, Yoshida (Ryô Narita), who turns out to be a playboy. We thus get Citizen Kane (1941), complete with nostalgia for lost youthful innocence, in the non-moralistic sense.

The first third of the film is shot by writer-director Ken Ninomiya in kinetic, hyperstylized form, from meeting Chiwawa to stealing the dough to the three wild days. At one point, this MTV style yields a literal music video, of the now-Instagram-famous Chiwawa covering “Television Romance” by Pale Waves. Amazingly, the whole blurry stretch is coheres well, in that you viscerally feel everything that’s going on. And since the friends hook up in the stereotypical way youthful libertines tend to do, it verges on becoming a sexploitation film, despite the fact that there are only two actual sex scenes (the second one, which comes a lot later, is a sped-up weeklong orgy intercut with Edgar Wright-style editing). This youthful energy is echoed in the hazily lit and overexposed flashback scenes during Miki’s interviews, featuring more lens flares than a J.J. Abrams film. The style is even carried through the credits, scrolling past between two alternating slideshows of professional, tasteful, and sexy photographs of the events of the film. If you see Chiwawa for the mood, you’ll find it an engrossing film.

Of the acting, the standout performance is without a doubt Shiori Yoshida’s Chiwawa, who strikes one as an airhead party girl at first; but the impression is belied by her evident insecurities and overdeployed smizing. She projects bubbly vivacity to ward off her aimless ennui, and Yoshida hits the mark with pinpoint precision.

As for the sexual politics, despite Miki’s motivations, the film insinuates that Chiwawa met her end because of . . . her uncontrollable sex drive. Even worse, Yoshida can only grieve Chiwawa’s death when he rapes Miki—Last Tango in Paris (1972) with an unwilling participant.

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