(BY ALI NADERZAD) Michel Gondry in Cannes. There’s a paradox if we’ve ever seen one since Gondry made his film career in the States but now returns, barely the prodigal son, to present one of the short films in the Tokyo! tryptich, a strange, rather dour hommage to the city of ever-shrinking dwellings. The other directors who collaborated on this project with Gondry (Leos Carax and Bong Joon Ho) didn’t try to dispel the usual stereotypes the uninitiated might have about Tokyo and the Japanese. Leos Carax’s film, entitled Merde, starred Denis Lavant (who most recently appeared in Mister Lonely) as a sewer-dwelling creature whose diet consists of flowers and cash (yes, greenbacks) and whose hatred for the Japanese drives him above ground to roam the city awhile and emit grunts and belches sending Tokyoites running for their lives. Carax has often eluded me. Merde has proven no different. The creature, named for the title of the film, is grotesque, repulsive, even, and is ultimately hanged, thankfully. Rarely in the history of modern cinema has a film been more aptly titled. Opening the Tokyo! tryptich is Michel Gondry’s film, about a young couple who moves to New York to shoot movies. The pace is a little too leisurely this time around, and perhaps it’s because we have learnt to expect more of the same with this director. What was once considered fresh, visionary, even is now stale and predictable. There’s a sweetness behind the characters which can be touching but no film has ever gotten by on only sentiment. Moreover, Tokyo is relegated to mere backdrop, a storefront here, an apartment building there. What happened to the promised message? Where’s the Tokyo love? For a while it seemed like Bong Joon Ho, who signed the third installment, had a better handle on this than the other two gentlemen. His “Shaking Tokyo” is about hikikomoris, very much a Tokyo term for what Westerners might think of as hoarders. But these hikikomoris are the vanguard of hoarders. They never leave their homes. So, how do two hikikomoris meet and fall in love? That’s the premise of Shaking in Tokyo but unfortunately Bong Joon-ho never quites rises to the occasion. Yes, it’s a very interesting concept but the results are tepid. In sum, Tokyo! is mildly fun to watch for the novelty of the act and what seemed like a genuine undertaking at first. But, alas, this Tokyo falls quite flat in the end.