April 5, 2005

CGI Spurting Blood and Cutsie Manga

Murakamii.jpeCinecultist is turning into a bit of a Japanaphile lately. We've been cramming our Netflix queue with various horror and action flicks we've never seen and have been devouring articles and prints related to artists like Takashi Murakami, who's contributing to the Japan Society's exhibit "Little Boy" which is opening very soon (this Friday to be exact).

Battle_Royale.jpgA film we've been meaning to see for ages and finally did over the weekend, the first in our personal mini-series "Japanese Films CC's Been Meaning To See," was Battle Royale. We think perhaps CC may be using this phrase so much that we'll wear it out over the next few weeks but here it is: "This movie is really fucked up and totally awesome." It's not so much conventional horror, with monsters or supernatural mayhem, but rather people thrust into a horrific situation. We're in post-apocalyptic Japan where violence in schools is ranging so out of control that the government has passed the BR Act. This law allows for a lottery to choose a ninth grade class which participates in a Survivor/Lord of the Flies To The Death game. Armed with an array of weapons, from guns and hatchets to fans and soup pan lids, only the last teen standing is allowed to go home.

With all of the witty ultra-violence, it's easy to see why Quentin Tarantino loves this movie and cast Chiaki Kuriyama (who plays one of the particularly brutal girl contestants) as the assassin Go Go in Kill Bill.The combination of satirical humor, spattering blood, expansive classical music on the score and the teen emotions so familiar from any show on the WB is very Tarantino-esque. Or perhaps it's just very Japanese or very Kinji Fukasaku-esque as he's been making movies since the '60s.

If you want to get into these questions of artistic imperialism or the Western market capitalizing on a new-found fascination with a foreign national cinema, it can get quite hairy. What looks so new to our eyes is perhaps something they've always been doing or has intrinsic roots in the culture. But white movie-goer guilt aside, Battle Royale is surely worth a viewing for the sheer fun the film seems to be having with moviemaking. It's as though Stanley Kubrick or Joss Whedon were Japanese and perhaps spent way too much time playing shoot 'em up video games. An incongruous but unique mash-up to be sure.

As coincidence would have it, Battle Royale is the Dekk Restaurant Superfilm movie night this week so you could head down there at 7:30 pm tonight. Also, in terms of the exhibits at the Japan Society, their film on Friday at 6:30 pm, Otakus in Love about two manga artists who meet cute sounds like it could be quite fun.

Posted by karen at April 5, 2005 8:51 AM