Directed by Somai Shinji. 118min. Japan.
Three high-school students set out to find their kidnapped classmate and come up against the dangers of the city, alternately chasing or fleeing the police and the yakuzas.
The actors’ astonishing performance propels the whole film into that uncommon realm where cinematic beauty espouses the brutal beauty of the world. The bodies move through space with heaviness reminiscent of the crashing tumblings of Buster Keaton, always picking themselves up again to face the violence that threatens them. And this violence, always shown from a perfect distance, seems to trigger a gush of youth and reality. With Tatsuya Fuji, who played the leading role in Oshima’s The Realm of the Senses. (3Continents.com)
Somai Shinji is arguably the most influential director on contemporary Japanese cinema. While unfortunately passing away in 2001 at the age of 53, his work has influenced many of the directors today, from Kurosawa Kiyoshi (who worked as an assistant director under Somai) to Tanada Yuki (who talked about Somai when she came to Yale last term). Somai was known as a master of the long take, perhaps second only to Mizoguchi Kenji in using that technique in Japanese film, but his approaches to life, death, youth, and sexuality also endeared him to legion of cineastes. It was in part because he mostly worked in the youth film genre with his early films that he was rarely shown abroad, but his work is finally being given the credit it deserves worldwide, with new DVD/BluRay releases and a major retrospective at the Japan Society in New York in a few weeks. Yale is pleased to be able to show two of his rarer works as a special preview to that retrospective.