I Are You, You Am Me

Tenkosei

dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Nobuhiko Obayashi, director of the cult classic poltergeist epic House, had a huge hit with this Freaky Friday-style gender-switch comedy about two high school students who swap bodies.
A pioneering figure in Japanese experimental filmmaking, Nobuhiko Obayashi recently shot to fame in North America with the release of his delirious 1977 debut feature House (Hausu), and a full-scale retrospective is now in the works. (For a good overview of Obayashi's films, see the Midnight Eye website.) Here's your chance to see what the excitement is all about. Also known as Exchange Students, I Are You, You Am Me was a critical favourite and one of a series of highly popular "grade school films" that Obayashi made in the eighties. The "exchange" of the title isn't of the traditional kind: Obayashi's gender-bending or, more appropriately, gender-switching fantasy involves two high school students, similarly named Kazuo and Kazumi, who accidentally switch souls when they have an accident at a shrine. The two end up inhabiting each other's bodies, Freaky Friday-style, leading to all manner of mishaps and misunderstandings: "he" punches out a bully, while "she" forgets to put on the top of her bathing suit. "A very funny picture" (Donald Richie).