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Fighting Elegy (Suzuki Seijun 1966)


Fighting Elegy
[Kenka Ereji]

Genre: Quasi-historical Action [Showa Era: 1926-1989]

review in one breath

The early trilogy of movies by Director Seijun Suzuki, of which this movie is the last, examines the impact and ludicrousness of the forces leading to war. Fighting Elegy follows the life of Kiroku, a junior high student in 1935 rural Japan, through a series of over-the-top humorous brawls. Under the instruction of master brawler "Turtle", Kiroku undertakes a rigorous training which involves mastery of several fighting techniques and an austere abstinence from mingling with the opposite sex. Unfortunately for Kiroku, he resides in a boarding house along with the young and beautiful Michiko, who sends Kiroku's raging libido off the deep end. To battle his urges (and sudden, ill-timed erections) Kiroku throws himself all the more fervently into his scuffles.

Kiroku's behavior is not viewed simply as that of a troubled youth, as Suzuki highlights the various social forces which glorify the ideal of the disciplined soldier. Schools place male students in something of an ROTC run amuck in preparation for entry into the Emperor's army. Even the principal, hearing of an exceptionally amazing brawl in which Kiroku emerges victorious over the school's best fighters can only praise Kiroku and immediately beckons him to demonstrate his fighting prowess as the principal picks up a wooden sword right there in his office and commences to attack Kiroku. Likewise the fights are so organized by the opposing factions that they resemble mini-wars, with spies, banners, victory chants and uniforms.

The movie portrays these social influences as giving rise to the Fascism of 1930's Japan. During his exploits, Kiroku inadvertently is attracted to the shadowy figure of real-life dissident writer and "founder of modern Japanese fascism", Ikki Kita. Kita is infamous for his involvement in the "ni ni roku" (February 26) coup attempt in which nearly 1500 rebel soldiers, influenced by Kita's advocacy of National Socialism, took control of several key buildings in Tokyo and killed the government's Finance and Military Education ministers. The goal of the movement was to restore the direct rule of Emperor Hirohito. Kita was eventually executed in 1937 for his role in this uprising. Fighting Elegy closes with Kiroku learning that Tokyo has been placed under Marshall law due to a rebellion by a man he now recognizes as Kita. Wanting to take part in the "biggest scuffle of them all", he quickly jumps aboard a train headed for Tokyo, in order to join the forces of Kita.

Though its message may seem quite serious, the movie remains very humorous throughout and is in many ways an obvious satire meant to poke fun at what Suzuki considers the absurdities of war. The fight scenes are completely over-the-top and choreographed in ways which will make you look on in amazement. The characters, both adult and youth, are in many instances complete goof balls. The movie also has the best theme song of any of the movies reviewed here. This movie is thoroughly entertaining for its complete glorification of testosterone-flowing machismo and wildly outlandish fight scenes. If you're a guy, this is definitely one to watch with your buddies, though its probably not one to watch with your date (whose eyes will undoubtedly be rolling in no time).

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Set in pre-War Japan while sentiments for the Emperor and his army were running high. Excellent historical background introducing Ikka Kita and the rise of the National Socialist Movement. Though presented humorously, check out these social influences! Numerous amazing fight scenes ranging from one on one fist fights to mini wars between huge (!) junior high gangs. Creatively designed weapons proliferate, including razor blade caps and spiked weights twirled on ropes. Also contains some collateral damage to unsuspecting chickens whose pen becomes a battlefield. No sex or nudity despite Kiroku's raging libido. However, Kiroku does on one occasion play the piano with his overly-libidinous member in an attempt to get things under control. So completely over-the-top in testosterone and highly-organized youthful delinquency that you will want to go out and kick some rival butt after watching this!

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