Genre: Jekyll and Hyde meets Friday the 13th
review in one breath
After years of being bullied, Murazaki Juzo's harbored anger now manifests itself as a self-conscious personality deep within him. As if driven by forces he cannot control, he finds himself precariously close decades later to his worst bully. As Juzo watches on in increasing horror, his alter ego gradually comes violently to the fore in what increasingly appears to be a highly orchestrated vengeance. This is a riveting psycho-revenge film with a superb soundtrack and plenty of eye candy.
WOW! Here's a cutting-edge mind bender for those of you tired of the same old formulas!
This is the first film by Inoue Yasuo who up to this point has been an award winning creator of music video productions (of the MTV variety). And his creative niche at blending emotive rock music to vibrant visuals comes across thoroughly in this film in several key scenes.
What is interesting here is how polished Inoue's first film comes across. I do not know the details, but the fact that famed director Miike Takashi makes a three second cameo appearance here suggests that Inoue is getting some good production advice (if needed) from rather key figures. If Inoue gets funded for future projects, I will certainly be in his audience.
In addition to Miike, the film pulls in a very respectable cast of young popular performers. The lead character of Murasaki Juzo is played by Oguri Shun whom you will recognize from Azumi and Azumi 2. The bully Akai Toru is played by Arai Hirofumi who had previously appeared in Aoi Haru (as Aoki!) and with Takeshi Kitano in Chi to Hone. The character "Shinu Gami" is of course Matsumoto Minoru, a favorite and highly memorable face in many Kitamura Ryuhei films, yet TO THIS DAY lacks a single (truly) lead role. (Am I the lone member of the Matsumoto Minoru Fan Club?)
This film is based quite directly on the popular 1994 manga series entitled "Rinjin Juusan Gou" (Neighbor No. 13) by Inoue Santa (no relation to director Inoue). Inoue Santa is a rather prolific manga artist with several popular series, past and present, in publication.
[Side note: For those inclined to draw comparisons between this film and "Ichii the Killer", please note that Inoue's Rinjin was published four years prior to Matsumoto Hideo's Koroshiya 1 manga. Thus in reality, this film likely has absolutely no dependencies upon "Ichii".]
The vicious bullying he received in elementary school at the hands of Akai Toru has left Murasaki Juzo deeply and mentally scarred. ("Juzo", by the way, is spelled ?? ...Get it?!) Stark and surreal imagery of a desolate building with a blood red interior connotes Juzo's mental state wherein he has locked himself away to focus purely on the pain and abuse he received. The more he relives his horrors the weaker he becomes until he can neither stand nor think. It is then that Juusan Gou (13) enters the blood red room, absorbs Juzo's scars and horror, and aggressively throws Juzo out into the daylight.
As if by some design, Juzo lives in apartment 13 directly below the now married Akai Toru. Akai is oblivious to Juzo's presence and even fails to recognize him when Juzo starts his first day at the construction site directly under his management. Akai hasn't changed a bit and still viciously and physically bullies those weaker than he, causing Juzo to relive much of what he had suffered in the past.
But it soon becomes clear that Juzo has a breaking point at which he changes into "someone completely different". It is during these times that Juzo takes a back seat to the purely revenge-motivated Juusan Go, often resulting in anger-induced murder of anyone getting in his way. The more this occurs the more terrified Juzo becomes, and the more strength and power Juusan Go seems to gain with every emergence, until finally, Juusan exists side by side with Juzo, walking and acting within the same real world space.
And there is no getting rid of Juusan Go. He has much larger, darker plan for Akai, one which will strip from him everything in the most sadistic way possible.
From the opening scenes, the depth of the pain and suffering driving Juzo's schizophrenia is made palpable. The imagery used by Inoue is reminiscent of that of Miike's Box. Thus the use of surreal imagery to depict mental states is very effective here. And when you add to that Inoue's skill at integrating pounding audio to these visuals, you will walk away from this film with the strongest scenes etched into your memory.
There are three strands to this narrative through which the storyline will consistently jump. There is the past, that time of elementary school during which Juzo suffered innumerable abuses at the hands of Akai. This strand is evoked primarily as flashbacks either explaining or mirroring events in the other two strands. The second strand is Juzo's mental state as depicted by the blood red room. It is here where Juzo and his alter ego most often embrace each other. Here Inoue's style and imagery come across most effectively. The third strand is the "present" day to day life of the adult Juzo. This strand itself seems to consist of only a three or four day period during which everything herein unfolds. We are given no clues as to what precedes or follows this small window in time and are left wondering to what extent Juusan Go orchestrated the whole thing.
The "present day" portion of the narrative is where the violence and consequence of Juusan's actions are depicted. The point of this strand is to show how normalcies are betrayed by deeper and darker undercurrents. Thus time is spent showing the "normalicies" of Akai's family life or the innocent aspirations of Seki. But this strand is interspersed with a frequency of violence and tension which easily keeps it from being either slow or dull. Heck, there's even a cartoon sequence in there depicting Seki's manga characters vividly living out Juzo's disturbing fantasy.
I really liked this film and found it quite riveting. (I watched it three times.) The music, scenery, and tension all work together well and the possibility of what might happen when Jussan Go explodes again is ever-looming over the narrative's progress. This is definitely one to check out if you can.
Version reviewed: Region 0 subtitled DVD.
|Inoue Yasuo's directorial debut. What an excellent starting point!||Between Akai's deranged abuse and Juusan's mind-crushing retribution, there is a WHOLE LOTTA violence. Poor Miike tries to make an appearance on the other side of the camera and just look what happens!||Some panty sniffing and one obscure scene of head-bobbing.||Rather surreal tale depicting deranged mental states and the sheer force of violence they can unleash.|