For the first installment of Under the Radar, we will look atÂ Gen Sekiguchiâ€™s Japanese release,Â Survive Style 5+ (2004).
The filmâ€™s limited release in English-speaking countries has long accounted for its lack of presence in cult-film circles. In fact, it was some time before you could purchase a version with accurate subtitles in the US or UK. WhyÂ Palisades Tartan/Asia ExtremeÂ label or any other major distributor has not picked up and promoted this film is a mystery. However, at least now you can purchase it through Amazon and other popular online vendors.
A film as unique as its name.
First time feature-film directorÂ Gen SekiguchiÂ dazzles us with aÂ colorful tapestryÂ of upbeat music, elaborate costumes,Â meticulousÂ sets, and oddball characters. The narrative follows the stories of several different and mostly unrelated characters: following the romance of two misfit boys, a woman who makes offensively bad TV commercials, a man whoÂ repeatedlyÂ kills his wife, only to have her come back to life each time, and a man who thinks he’s a bird (as well as a few more). How do these stories relate you ask? Well, they donâ€™t really, which is part of what makes it so much fun. This filmÂ doesn’tÂ aim to be taken seriously and I would advise against it, so that you can better enjoy the offbeat hijinks that the Japanese do so well.
Although the film is zany and over the top, it is tightly knit and the art directionÂ in particularÂ is incredible. Every scene is painstakingly designed, decorated, and toned. The rooms of Amanâ€™s (Tadanobu Asano) house are reminiscent of Disney’sÂ Alice in WonderlandÂ or a carnival fun house. Spades and colorfully surreal art line the walls. His wifeâ€™s costumes are also fanciful and over the top. In fact, each time she comes back we look forward to seeing what she is wearing. Every part of the film holds this attention to detail: Ã¼berÂ colorful and inventive.Â Makoto Shigumaâ€™s sweeping cinematography and deep-staged shots function well to illuminate the heavy stylization of this film.
Tadanobu Asanoâ€™s performance as Aman and his overall understated acting style Iâ€™ve come to love, works well in this film. The interaction between him and his girlfriend, who is played by the lovelyÂ Reika Hashimoto, is especially awkward and magical. There are also some fun cameos, such asÂ Vinnie JonesÂ (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,Â Snatch) as a hired hitman, andÂ Sonny ChibaÂ (a million martial arts movies) as a marketing executive.Â Ittoku Kishibe’s performance as the â€˜birdmanâ€™ is also humorous and spot on, although quite silly.
This film makes no attempt to soften its peculiarly quirky and over the top situational humor. It pokes fun at taboos and plays with ideas of what is important in life. This is a movie bound to make its way further into the cult archives; it is bizarre, original, beautiful, confusing, and altogether hilarious. Take my advice and check this one out.
Let me know what you think and keep an eye out for my next installment of Under the Radar (assuming you enjoy my suggestion).
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