4 August 2014 | alisonc-1
A Sequel As Goofy As the Original
One of my favourite films from Montreal's Fantasia Festival in 2013 was "Thermae Romae," a goofy Japanese film set in ancient Rome and featuring bath builder Lucius (Hiroshi Abe) who finds himself in modern-day Japan from time to time, where he discovers new public bath designs and a young girl Mami (Aya Ueto) who wants to draw manga and is very drawn to him. So when I saw there was a "Thermae Romae II" showing up at Fantasia in 2014, starring the same actors in the same roles, well, I had to see it of course! And it was just as goofy as the first one. Once again, Lucius is called upon to create new public baths, at the behest of Emperor Hadrianus (Masachika Ichimura), but this time he's asked to do so in the belief that public baths will make Rome a peaceful country that no longer is fighting multiple wars in distant lands. But the Senate wants the wars to continue - after all, they profit mightily from them - and so they conspire to have Lucius killed by ex-soldiers turned bandits. But they reckoned without the single-mindedness of our hero, and his peculiar ability to suddenly be transported to modern-day Japan, with all the advantages that brings to him (not to mention Mami)....
This is definitely a sequel, but one that doesn't require the audience to have seen the first film (in fact, I heard several people in line stating that they hadn't seen the first one, but the premise was such that they couldn't miss seeing the second). There are a few moments shown from the first film, mostly Mami having flashbacks of those events, but they weren't needed to enjoy the second one on its own merits. There's a lot of humour and a bit of pathos, and some romance too. And I had forgotten that Lucius' travels into the future were accompanied by an apparently necessary baritone opera singer, on some hill somewhere, singing "Pagliacci" - the final touch to make this just that much more absurd, and enjoyable! A fitting end to Fantasia for us this year indeed!