I love a film set in the same San Francisco that I inhabit. Nothing against the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, or Alcatraz, but I spend most of my time in places like Green Apple Books. It’s yet another reason that I was bowled over by Dave Boyle’s enchanting neo-Noir, MAN FROM RENO. Boyle is not a San Franciscan himself, though I would make a case for conferring honorary status on him, but he was smart enough to listen to his San Franciscan crew while filming this intriguing tale of a Japanese mystery writer caught up in a real-life mystery during a trip to this iconic city.
When I spoke with Boyle on April 1, 2015, the trick was to avoid giving away too much about the plot, which I think we pulled off while discussing life imitating art, wardrobe choices, those filming locations, and our mutual delight in finally giving a character actor center stage. I was also fascinated by the way he used the bilingual dialogue, Japanese and English, as a way to underscore the mystery at hand, as well as making the subtleties a plot point, and a playful jab at the difficulties of non-native speakers.
We started, though, with my wondering about something Boyle had said to me years ago when I talked to him forWHITE ON RICE, specifically, how writing that film was a way for him to work through his own worries about never being able to move out of his sister’s basement. I wanted to know if he had gotten over it yet.
MAN FROM RENO is Boyle’s neo-Noir about identity, subterfuge, and finding lettuce where you’d least expect it. Set in San Francisco and a small town to the south, it’s an elegant mystery that involves an Japanese author with a secret, a small-town sheriff whose folksy manner belies his keen instincts, and a Japanese missing person known as The Running Man, both for his bolting from his hospital bed, and for what he was doing when he collided with that sheriff’s car. Rife with disquieting encounters, and hairpin turns, Boyle’s film is a sublime example of clever plotting coupled with a sharp sense of character study where translations require more than a knowledge of both Japanese and English, a melon drop is not a cocktail, and trust is a commodity almost too expensive to consider. The film stars Ayako Fujitani, Pepe Serna, Kazuki Kitamura, Hiroshi Watanabe, Elisha Skorman, Thomas Cokenias, Masami Kosaka, and Derrick O’Connor. Boyle directed from a script he co-wrote with Joel Clark and Michael Lerman. His previous work includes SURROGATE VALENTINE and DAYLIGHT SAVINGS with musician Goh Nakamura, and the charming consideration of love, pain, and being a grown-up, WHITE ON RICE.