Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Battle Royale," My Favorite Japanese Cult Flick...

And that's the trailer for Battle Royale, with Kitano Takeshi. Those related to me may know him as "Vic Romano" from MXC. However, here in Japan he's a ubiquitous TV personality, highly respected film director and actor. Battle Royale was just an acting gig for him, but he makes the most of his limited screen time. This movie also features a young Kuriyama Chiaki, who went on to American pop culture iconic status as Gogo Yubari in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Volume One. Several of its other stars- like bad girl Shibasaki Kou- have gone on to varying degrees of show business success, so I'd compare this movie to the 80s commie paranoia flick Red Dawn with its cast of teens and young adults like Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey and the great Harry Dean Stanton in his film debut as a gun-totin' toddler.

It's similar to Red Dawn in that its hearty seasonings of violence and ridiculousness make it eminently watchable and rewatchable. You can enjoy it on any number of levels. I mean, if you're into this sort of thing.

And I am.

As you can probably guess this movie caused quite a stir here in Japan when it debuted, but most of the people I meet have never seen it. Or even if they do know of it, they think it's a curiosity, not all that good (contrary to its almost legendary status in the States) or else merely extremely silly. They also tend to think I'm weird for liking it. No argument there.

Whenever I'm asked what Japanese films I like, I list the typical Japanophile favorites- Kurosawa, Kurosawa, Kurosawa, plus Miyazaki Hayao and his Studio Ghibli animated masterworks.

Those usually get appreciative nods, and the Miyazaki mention often leads to more questions, such as, "Have you watched Laputa?" or "Have you watched Porco Rosso?" The charming Totoro remains a universally beloved classic so sometimes at that point the conversation gets rerouted down the Totoro Track and we travel along through a Ghibli-inspired landscape while we reminisce about our favorite scenes. So of course I've seen those- except Porco Rosso, but it's only a matter of time. However, when I get to Battle Royale...

That's when people crack up and exclaim: "Eeehhhh?!!?"

And because I love the over the top score in its intro scene, here's the first 9 minutes or so:


Audiovore said...

Well I've always meant to watch this since it was recommended to be by some old coworkers. But I have to say, it didn't make much sense at all. I had assumed it was going to be crazy people a la Saw, Hostel, ect. that put the kids somewhere to fight for fun. The sequel made even less sense if that is possible.

jon wilson said...

i watched this with you at blastov practice. great movie. i really liked "imprint" and "audition" by takashi miike(the only japanese filmmaker i'm familiar with, lol).