Sunday, April 22, 2007

Survive Style 5+

Survive Style 5+
Directed by: Gen Sukiguchi, Japan, 2004
Thriller/Comedy/Drama, 120min
Distributed by: Geneon

Five constellations of people and how their lives are interwoven in a fast paced blend of Guy Ritchie, Wes Anderson and Takashi Miike. There’s Yoko [Kyôko Koizumi] the self centred AD who is constantly trying to sell her abstract ideas to friends and customers, Aman [Tadanobu Asano] who is desperately trying to get away from his wife [Reika Hashimoto], but every time he succeeds in killing her and buries her, she mysteriously is resurrected by the time he gets home and the fight starts all over again. Sombre businessman Mr. Kobayashi [Shihori Kanjiya] and his family who find themselves stuck in a strange state a hypnotism goes terribly wrong, the three burglars Tsuda [Kanji Tsuda], Morishita [Yoshiyuki Morishita] and J [Jai West] where Tsuda is secretly in love with J, and finally the contract-killer-agent [Yosiyosi Arakawa] who has flown in a philosophical killer [Vinnie Jones] to help him out with a few cases.

I was in doubt a few times under the first fifteen minutes, as I thought Sukiguchi’s almost two hour debut feature would be a typical “first time feature film with a past in music videos” kind of movie and just rely heavily on fast editing fancy colourful sets and pacing to substitute plot and likeable characters but then something started to happen and I was slowly drawn in to the flow of the movie. Characters start to develop, obstacles for the five constellations are set in motion, music cues are introduced (like the “come Baby, come, come baby” Erasure-ish cues every time Tsuda starts to fantasize about J.) and the five individual tales are kicked into motion. One by one the paths cross into each other and have a varied effect on the cast. As soon as the five groups are introduced Sukiguchi starts of his magic, and one of the characters that I thought was going to be a lead character, Aoyoma the Hypnotist [Hiroshi Abe], after interacting with Mr. Kobayashi is violently killed off by Vinnie Jones hit man. This is how it continues to play through out, each set interacting with the others in one way or another. The moods that Sukiguchi tries to put on screen work like a charm, at the end of it all you end up believing the characters and rooting for their inner battles, The Homo-erotic tension between Tsuda and J, Aman and his wife battling it out and the wonderfully poetic twist that comes out of it, and even the surprise ending of Mr. Kobayashi, how unbelievable it still is, works and you feel satisfied with the conclusions. All of this isn’t depending on the fact that there’s loads of music, fast editing and some great sets and costume design, that’s just the two hour music video style and form coming though, No it all boils down to the well written stories and how the group of characters evolve, and the cast is really good, they do a great job of portraying all these fragile characters. The majority of the acting is great, Kanjiya is truly believable as the hypnotised father who now goes on living his life under hypnosis (I won’t tell you how, as it’s a hilarious story in the film), Koizumi sways from happy pitcher to misunderstood creative genius, which I’ve seen happen so many times in reality that I truly believe her. There’s even a great cameo by Sonny Chiba as Koizumi’s boss. It’s always a joy to watch Tadanobu Asano who always manages to wear his characters most inner feelings by only using very small measures; his Aman character is no exception. There’s almost no dialogue at all between Asano and Reika Hashimoto in their scenes, but still they manage to make the larges impression as their tale moves from so many extremes (fighting to the death, to reconciliation and happiness, to finally end up with saddens and despair). The only person that actually feels like he’s completely out of place is Vinnie Jones. His hard-as-a-rock jargon “What’s your function in life?” doesn’t quite work for me, or it could just be the sickness of him sticking to the same type of roles that he’s become accustomed to, like Ritchie’s Lock Stock, and Snatch. A loudmouthed hit man with no sense of remorse anywhere.

So to summarize, Survive Style 5+ truly is a kickass fun fest of a rollercoaster where Sekiguchi skilfully blends his music video and commercial trademarks of vibrant colours and surreal situations with well plotted storylines that make for a great movie which in the end didn’t felt way shorter than the two hours it plays, which is a good thing. Definitely worth checking out. Unfortunately this is the only movie to date that Sekigushi has directed, and that’s a shame, it’s these kinds of young in-your-face directors that we need to keep the Asian film scene from becoming synonymous with Samurai, Yakuza and pale subtle ghosts.

16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen. Subtitles in Japanese, and English optional

Dolby Digital 5.1 & Dolby Digital 2.0

Promotional films for the movie, TV trailers and the Theatrical trailer. There could easily have been a lot more on this disc.

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