Infinite Two Minutes

It’s not often that a modern movie really grabs me. Especially a modern science fiction movie. Extra especially any science fiction movie involving time travel (because time travel makes no sense at all). When that movie is a first-time directorial effort with almost zero budget and shot on iPhones, it’s really something very special.

And when the story, despite time travel making no sense at all, exudes a sense of sheer joy and fun to carry it along (despite time travel making no sense at all), and delights even on a second viewing — where one can pay attention to how it was shot to appear as one long 70-minute take — it gets an enthusiastic Wow! rating from me.

I’m talking about Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2020).

The film is the directorial debut of Junta Yamaguchi with a script by Makoto Ueda. Both are relative unknowns. The IMDb lists two earlier credits (2005 and 2009) for writer Makoto Ueda and two later credits (2021 and 2022) for director Junta Yamaguchi.

The earlier credit for Makoto Ueda is the script for Summer Time Machine Blues (2005), which Wikipedia tells me is based on his same-named play. So, he seems to have a thing for time-travel stories and apparently has some experience crafting them. (The earlier film sounds interesting, and I’d like to see if I can find it for viewing.)

As mentioned in the lede, Junta Yamaguchi shot the film using iPhones and crafted the cinematography to make the entire film appear as a single shot — there is never an obvious edit or cut to another scene. If you pay a lot of attention, though, you can catch some spots where they provided for an edit from one film take to another.

The entire cast and the Time TV. At the far rear, the two Time agents, rear left (seated), the two Bad Guys. Cafe owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) front center with love interest Megumi (Aki Asakura) on the right. Aya (Riko Fugitani) is standing behind Megumi.

In fact, the film was shot over a period of seven days on location in (and around) a cafe in Kyoto. The cast are all members of a European Kikaku theater troupe, so they have acting experience (and are all delightful) but (as far as I can tell) no film background.

[The lone exception seems to be Aki Asakura (who plays love interest Megumi). She has appeared in a number of films, including the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist (2017). The Wikipedia page for the film doesn’t list her in the credits, so I assume it was a small role.]


When the film begins, cafe-owner Kato leaves his cafe after a long day. His employee Aya (Riko Fugitani) remains behind. Kato lives in a small apartment above the cafe, and the camera follows him up the stairs to his abode.

Once there, he wants to relax by playing his guitar (he and his friends have a band, and he wants to practice for an upcoming show). But he can’t find his guitar pick. As he crawls around the floor looking for it, his computer monitor lights up. On the monitor is Kato himself. He’s apparently in the cafe downstairs, using the monitor down there (both monitors have embedded cameras and microphones).

Past Kato and Future Kato. The guitar pick is under the rug!

He convinces Kato that it’s really himself — two minutes in the future. Future Kato tells past Kato where to find the guitar pick (under the carpet). The camera follows past Kato back downstairs to the cafe, where he uses the monitor there to reenact the scene we just saw from upstairs. He tells past Kato where to find the guitar pick.

[So, the film immediately introduces a paradox that could occur if time travel into the past was possible: Information from the future (for instance, plans on how to build a time machine) allows a past that eventually becomes the future where the information is passed back. But where did the information originate?]

Kato tries to explain what’s going on to Aya (not that he understands it himself), how the monitor upstairs is two minutes in the past compared to the monitor downstairs. Or the monitor downstairs is two minutes in the future compared to the monitor upstairs. Depends on your point of view.

Left-to-right: Komiya (Gôta Ishida), Aya (Riko Fujitani), Kato (Kazunari Tosa). Komiya is just learning about “Time TV”.

One of Kato’s friends (Komiya; Gôta Ishida) shows up and gets involved in the fun. He calls Kato’s two bandmates, and they show up. They all have a great deal of fun with the “Time TV”. One bit involving a lottery ticket and another a bottle of catsup. It seems the future can inform the past!

Until future Kato tells past Kato he was successful in inviting Megumi (who works in a barber shop next door) to his upcoming band’s performance. But when Kato goes to invite her, she turns him down. She doesn’t like music, she says (except there’s more to the story). But, urged by Aya not to create a paradox, Kato tells his past self he was successful.

But now he’s more concerned than ever. He didn’t like this time stuff, and now he’s really unhappy about it. But Aya and Kato’s friends are loving it and dismiss his concerns.


But they’re limited to only getting information from two minutes in the future. Then one of his friends realizes that, if they bring the upstairs monitor down, and face the two monitors together, they get a Droste effect of two-minute steps into the future (as when two mirrors face each other and provide an “infinite” tunnel of ever smaller mirror reflections).

Most of us have seen a version of the Droste effect before. It involves an image that contains a copy of the image. Which contains a copy of the image, which… and so on, theoretically to infinity. The effect is named after the image on a Dutch cocoa tin — one of which is featured in the film.

The effect is ancient and has been used on magazine covers and various other graphic media. M.C. Escher (who is Dutch) used it in his lithograph, Print Gallery (1956). You can create it easily yourself using any decent image editor (the Droste effect Wikipedia page shows one example).


Extending their reach further into the future results in a discovery of “lost” money left hidden in a VCR found in the trash. (In all cases, where the information originally comes from is never considered, but they have a lot of fun with the idea.)

This results in a visit from two Bad Guys from the fifth floor above the cafe. The money, apparently, is theirs, was stolen from them, and they want it back. Of course, they don’t believe a word of this “Time TV” nonsense.

[One of the movie’s charms is in how quickly Kato, Aya, and the friends, all accept what’s going on. No one really questions why or how, they’re just into it (with the except of Kato, who is filled with dread).]

The Bad Guys (silliest villains ever) kidnap Megumi, drag her upstairs, and rather hysterically tie her up (with a vague hint of Kinbaku (which you can look up for yourself)).


And that’s as much plot as I’m going to share. I won’t spoil the ending.

I don’t use the term “brilliant” very often, but the writing here is, indeed, brilliant. Pay attention to the catsup, the cymbal, and the pill bug. In particular, how naturally they’re introduced to the story. It’s impressive how things are foreshadowed and constructed.

One thing that’s a bit cute is the long, long extension cord for the upstairs monitor. Long enough to not only allow Kato to bring it downstairs, but long enough for him to take it all the way up to the fifth floor to the Bad Guys’ place. The shots are composed to make it as unnoticed as possible, but you’ll catch glimpses of it.

Left-to-right: Megumi (Aki Asakura) and Kato (Kazunari Tosa). And the Chekhov’s Cymbal. One might wonder why someone who doesn’t like music has a cymbal, but there’s a fine reason for it.

The film is a joy to enjoy and has plenty humorous moments. The “destroyed future” gag is a hoot, and Riko Fujitani (Aya) is a bit of a lively scene stealer. There isn’t much character development to speak of (Kato and Megumi get a bit), but each member of the cast is distinct and distinctive.

This isn’t a criticism, but I think the “fifth floor” is actually the fourth. I tried to count stair flights, and I’m not sure and maybe missed something, but I don’t think it was five floors. It only stands out because I wonder why they didn’t just say fourth floor.

But that couldn’t be more trivial. As I said, I give the film an enthusiastic Wow! rating.

It’s available on Amazon Prime and, according to Google, also on Tubi and Vudu. Highly recommended for all science fiction fans as well as for students of cinema.

It’s an outstanding example of the importance of story over special effects (or even budget). For all its somewhat crude visual appearance, the story is an energetic delight to behold. Be sure to watch the credits for some behind the ccenes glimpses showing how they filmed it.

§ §

On the topic of Japanese science fiction films, a shout-out to Memories (1995), which I watched last night after re-watching (and re-enjoying) Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes.

It’s a set of three (2D) animated stories based on three manga stories by Katsuhiro Otomo (who created Akira). All three stories, especially the last, are ultimately tragedies, although the middle one has a lot of humor (and some satire). The last one is downright dark.

The film struck me as something of a cross between the (first) Heavy Metal film (1981) and Love, Death & Robots (on Netflix). The animation is visually striking (and different in each).

I’d give it an easy Eh! rating. Well worth seeing for fans of Japanese anime or for fans of revered and award-winning Katsuhiro Otomo (the 1988 feature-length anime film, Akira, is widely considered one of the best examples of Japanese anime).

§ §

In terms of its almost non-existent budget and location shooting, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes recalls to mind El Mariachi (1992) by Robert Rodriguez in his feature-length debut. It, likewise, is crude in execution but compelling in story and heart. It’s the first, and by many considered best, of his Mexico Trilogy of films.

The sequels were a lot slicker but lacked the love and devotion of the first. It’s a good example of a story that burned in the artist’s heart, demanding to be told. I don’t know that anything Rodriguez has done since has impressed me as much (although I did enjoy From Dusk till Dawn (1996), The Faculty (1998) and Sin City (2005) quite a lot, each for different reasons).

Stay timely, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

2 responses to “Infinite Two Minutes

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Looking back at the various movies I’ve reviewed, both positively or negatively, it’s pretty clear that Hollywood isn’t much cutting it for me anymore. Looking at just the last couple years, the only exception is Top Gun: Maverick. I’m finding it’s mostly Asian films that grab me these days.

    One can only hope Hollywood eventually gets the message and starts making creative and entertaining films again.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Two good examples, perhaps, are the Mission: Impossible and John Wick movies. Recent iterations are more-or-less still fun to watch — still retaining some of the sheer entertainment of old — but they’ve gotten sillier and sillier over time.

      One wonders what the upcoming iterations will be like. Quite silly one imagines.

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