Genre: Extreme Youth Political Violence
review in one breath
In 1972, a small group of students affiliated with the Allied Red Army (Renge Sekigun) held a hostage in the mountain village of Karuizawa in Nagano-ken (Japan). The stand-off and ensuing battle between the student revolutionaries and the police were broadcast live into Japanese living rooms via intense television coverage. When the police finally overcame the leftist radicals, they found that the small group had violently turned upon themselves, committing brutal murders in order to purge themselves of those not fully committed to the path they had taken. This infamous scenario became known as the Asama Sanso Incident (Asama is the name of the mountain there) and is generally viewed as the collapse of the New Left student movement of the 1970's.
Director Kumakiri Kazuyoshi recalls watching with fascination the Asama Sanso Incident as a child on television. He also recalls the later television documentaries which outlined in great detail the demise of each of the victims. Kichiku Dai Enkai attempts to explore the inner self-destruction of a small revolutionary group like that of the Asama SansEIncident. Describing the film, Kumakiri explains, "I wanted to describe the horrifying emotions that drove them to kill close friends".
And horrifying is an appropriate description of the story Kichiku Dai Enkai tells. The film immediately earned notoriety as an amazingly violent depiction of brutality and murder with its visceral description of a radical student group's crescendoing frenzy into insanity and cruelty. This film is both thoughtful and shocking, moving and repulsive. Kumakiri's exploration into the dynamic whereby close friends murderously turn upon one another reveals a maddening mixture of ideology, peer pressure, sadism, and ecstatic insanity which in the end utterly consumes the entire group.
While Aizawa, the charismatic leader of a small band of revolutionary students, awaits his release from prison, he has left his girlfriend Masami in charge of the group. But while Aizawa was able to lead through a charisma which the others considered life-changing, Masami is only capable of holding things together through threats and manipulation. Coherence soon gives way to mistrust in Masami's judgment, and when a despondent Aizawa commits hari-kiri only days before his release, the group is literally on the brink of collapse. But a small core of the group loyal to Masami continues to pursue a radical path, a path which now seems compromised, even threatened, by the other members who left after Aizawa's death. In what they see as a step toward self-preservation, Masami and her loyalists embark upon a path toward hell wherein those who recoil or question the cruelty they are forced to participate in become themselves the victims of the others' crazed torture.
The depth of violence and gore depicted in Kichiku Dai Enkai places it well near the pole on the spectrum of extreme. But this film is far greater than the sum of its violence. Director Kumakiri does an excellent job of creatively depicting the blurred lines between devotion to ideals and insanity. Cinematic styles and haunting traditional music convey to audiences an ecstatic euphoria approaching demonic possession of the group's leaders. This frenzied intoxication then overflows onto the group's impressionable subordinates until each is cackling at sadistic sights which should bring tears to their eyes.
There are several significant parallels between Kumakiri's Kichiku Dai Enkai and Koji Wakamatsu's much earlier Ecstacy of the Angels (1972). The very year of the Asama Sanso Incident, Wakamatsu released his controversial Ecstasy of the Angels, which by the standards of the day, pushed the envelope in terms of violence and sex. Ecstasy of the Angels also followed the gradual spiral into self-destruction by a radical student group after the debilitation of its charismatic leader. In discussing the film, Wakamatsu recalls his realization, while watching waves of demonstrating students clash with police, that the Japanese student movement may well have succeeded had it not been for a lack of leadership and the resulting tendency to splinter and self-destruct. Both Wakamatsu and Kumakiri thoroughly and creatively depict this violent self-destruction. Kumakiri's Kichiku Dai Enkai, however, significantly exceeds Wakamatsu's shock factor and could easily be described as Ecstasy of the Angels meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (!!!)
Kichiku Dai Enkai should be recommended only for the strong of stomach, but those daring to watch will find a thought-provoking explosion of radical politics and human depravity.
Kichiku Dai Enkai will be released on Region 0 DVD September 28, 2004 by ArtsMagic. This two DVD set packs an incredible amount of extras, including a "making of" documentary and several excellent interviews with director Kumakiri, Cameraman Hashimoto Kiyoaki, Lead Actors Tomohiro Zaizen, Shunsuke Sawada, Shigeru Bokuda and Kentaro Ogiso, as well as a detailed introduction by Tom Mes.
Version reviewed: Region 0 DVD
|Shockingly brutal story based on the notorious Asama SansEIncident of 1972.||Major carnage and gore followed by MAJOR CARNAGE AND GORE (!!!)||Some "sex" scenes, but the only nudity here consists of a guy's ugly, pimply butt.||I really liked the way Director Kumakiri nuances supernatural/demonic (Shinto) possession when depicting the psychological state of radical devotion.|