Thermae Romae—Hilarity from Rome to Japan

Ancient Roman Lucius, played hilariously by Hiroshi Abe, is transported from an ancient Roman bathhouse to a modern Japanese bath. This completely original concept movie is a must see at TIFF.

A Toronto International Film Festival Highlight 2012
By Brian Newman

What unites ancient Rome and modern Japan? Thermae Romae answers with a cultural anchor, the bathhouse.
Thermae Romae (translates as “Roman Baths”) is one of those wickedly irresistible hits in the indie circuit is worth revisiting now that it’s coming to Toronto International Film Festival 2012 (TIFF).
Perhaps all I need suggest is “watch the trailer” and you’ll find yourself hooked (see below). The concept is hideously gripping, hilariously captivating. Based on a popular manga, the action hero is a bathhouse designer or architect. Yawn. Except, well it’s impossible not to like this hero in both film and comic version, where it sold 5 million copies in multiple editions.

Directed by Hideki Takeuchi, Thermae Romae proves once and for all that original and brilliant concepts come from Japan’s film industry.

In a classic movie from the hit Thermae Romae, an ancient Roman is transported through time to appear naked in front of dozens of Japanese bathers. The fun never stops in this movie, playing in 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

Sure, it’s a time-travel story, which is making the rounds in Japan and Korea and China—very trendy—but an entirely unique version. Hiroshi Abe, playing the Roman—Lucius bathhouse designer in search of ideas—is transported mysteriously to the future. Where does he land? In a Japanese bathhouse, of course, appearing suddenly amidst dozens of Japanese bathers as a naked Roman god.
The hilarity is non stop as he is astonished by the amazing spectacle of toilets, wicker clothes baskets and mill bottles. When he returns, he might have thought it all a dream, but for a milk bottle he clutches in his hand after his return.
Thermae Romae is a spectacle as well as comedy movie

Thermae Romae is also quite spectacular visually, boosted by great sets, both ancient and modern, thousands of extras and a visionary eye to direction. It’s not perfect, but it’s wonderful.

Although not entirely true to it’s comical roots, diving into occasional intrigue, Thermae Romae is a brilliant movie that makes the most of those obvious contrasts—and, remarkably, similarities—between Ancient Rome and modern Japan. Sure, it may get goofy if you are too literal, but it never tires.
This big budget film, cast with thousands of extras, is a vivid and wonderful film experience, not perfect by any means, but an absolute must see. You won’t forget it.

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