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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Kirishima Thing (桐島部活やめるってよ)

Once in a while, when I have witnessed something brilliant, I need to post it on this blog just to help myself remember.

THE KIRISHIMA THING (桐島部活やめるってよ) is a film that I've been curious about for a rather long time. Last year, my professor, Ando-sensei, told me that this was one of his favourite Japanese films of the year. It ended up winning both the Best Director and Best Film awards at the Japan Academy Awards.

After missing its screening at last September's Japanese Film Festival (a festival for Japanese films had been held annually in Malaysia for the past decade), I finally got to watch the film yesterday.

 And what a marvellous film it was! Film is set mostly in a Japanese high school, highlighting the "class structure" among high school students. The popular sports jocks who are popular among girls, looked up to by other guys, beloved by teachers. The nerds who reside in film clubs whose way of rebellion and self-expression is to make a low-budget films with a Super 8 camera. The clique of popular girls whose friendship is sustained mostly with lies. It's a film about many things and many characters, and it's absolutely wonderful.

Although the story is told in a span of a few days, the structure is novelistic (unsurprising, since the film is based on a novel by Yukiko Motoya, a fellow Waseda alum, yay, Waseda pride!), a particular day is revisited a few times, through the perspectives of different characters, so that different information is acquired each time we go through the same incident.

While this sort of structure were seen in the likes of Gus Van Sant's ELEPHANT, everything else about it is uniquely Japanese. The subtlety, the lyricism, the understated emotions that are hidden beneath most of the characters' impassive faces. It reminds me why I have spent most of my life being in love with Japanese films (and its culture, in general), past and present.

I loved it. (And it's not just because one of the protagonists is a nerdy aspiring filmmaker who is overlooked by everyone in school and has to suffer a broken heart!)

Director Daihachi Yoshida's debut film is 2007's FUNUKE, SHOW SOME LOVE YOU LOSERS! 腑抜けども、悲しみの愛を見せろ, which I saw back in 2008 and truly adored (especially its transcendental ending). At the end of the (gushing) post, I wrote this:

"Director Daihachi Yoshida knows his mise-en-scene well and is able to keep things under control despite this being his debut feature. Hard to find any information of him online, but I'm definitely looking forward to his future works."

Sadly, it took me six years before I got to catch another film of his, having missed his two previous films, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CAPTAIN KUHIO and PERMANENT NOBARA. But what a film!

In THE KIRISHIMA THING, a boy who seemingly has everything often gazes deeply at everything with perpetual curiosity, lost in his own thoughts, understanding his place in the world. Yet when roles are reversed and he becomes the one being observed, when questions he asked are turned against himself instead, he starts to weep. It's almost a mystery why he reacted the way he did, yet I find it strangely beautiful, to decipher the mystery by myself. Some films are just like that.