Call for Dreams

If you haven't seen Call for Dreams, stop what you're doing (yes, including reading this review, I won't mind) and go and do so right now. It's on Amazon Prime. You have no excuse.
I recently re-watched it for the third time, and it gets better and better with each viewing. In fact, I would probably say it's the best film of 2019.

Set in a nocturnal, rain-drenched, neon-lit Tokyo, Eko (Mami Shimazaki) places an advert in a newspaper, offering her services as a dream interpreter. Prospective clients simply need to call the number in the ad, leave a voicemail with a description of their dream and Eko "might get back to them" and re-enact the dream with the client (but this is a service purely for non-sexual purposes). However, Eko finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation in Tel Aviv after a client leaves a message describing a dream in which he shoots a Japanese woman.

From the beginning of the film, it's apparent that the boundaries between dreams and reality are deliberately blurred. However, I thought that the film's ending worked in tying most of the threads together in a satisfying, conclusive way. I won't divulge any spoilers as this film has had a very limited release so far, playing in film festivals such as the 2018 Utopia Film Festival (Winning Best Film in the Israeli competition), the 2018 European Independent Film Festival (where Shimazaki won Best Actress) and it was even nominated for Best Production Design at the 2018 Ophir Awards, colloquially known as the "Israeli Oscars". I was lucky enough to first see Call for Dreams back in November at the 2019 UK Jewish Film Festival in London.

The film's main selling point is its cinematography. It is absolutely stunning. You could freeze-frame almost any shot from the film, and it would look incredible, with or without the film's context.
I loved its atmosphere. Its synthy, electronic score felt faintly reminiscent of Cliff Martinez's work on Nicolas Winding Refn films such as Drive or The Neon Demon. The recurring shots of Eko looking out of her flat's raindrop-stained window at Tokyo's night-time skyline, lit by a bright red moon and the purple/green glow from her fish tank, have a wonderfully intimate and, for a lack of a better word, dreamlike quality.

This film was directed by Ran Slavin and is his first feature length project. Ran Slavin is an Israeli multimedia artist; his works span video installations, original music compositions and photography. The biography on his website describes him as "one of the essential figures in the Israeli video art and sound scene since the early 90's". His other video works, which are often exhibited in art galleries or museums, or even public outdoor spaces such as Times Square, NYC, are also highly surreal, often examining the blurring boundary between our real and digital lives, or Jewish identity in 21st century Israel.
Slavin is clearly a name to look out for in Israeli film - as well as writing and directing Call for Dreams, he edited it, composed the score, created the visual effects (which were very impressive considering the independent nature of this project), worked as production designer and was one of the four cinematographers who filmed the project.

The only thing about the film that felt weirdly problematic was a dream re-enactment in which the client paints his face black. Eko paints her face white for this scene, so I assumed there was supposed to be some sort of yin-yang power play, which would make sense in the context of other scenes which explore the idea of dual lives (don't worry, we are still not in spoiler territory). It's no real cause for concern, but I can imagine that this scene might initially be a bit jarring for other viewers, like it was for me.

I know this certainly isn't a film for everyone - it is very surreal, relatively light on dialogue and plays more like a series of vignettes than one cohesive, overarching narrative, but overall, I thought Call for Dreams was a mesmerising, fascinating experience. If you, like me, are also a fan of David Lynch films or even Christopher Nolan's Inception (which arguably was inspired by the 2006 Japanese anime film Paprika) then you are in for a treat!

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