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Quick Takes #3: Social Outcasts

May 1, 2012

Monsters Club (2011)

A Japanese take on the Unabomber theme, by punk-art director Toshiyaki Toyoda who was one of the most promising Japanese directors before his drug bust in 2004. Monsters Club pushes the balance further towards art house, coming out somewhat more pretentious than the director’s early, energetic and violent yet poetic films. Set in a cabin in the middle of a snowy forest with a young man (Eita) fighting the society by posting explosive mail, it’s an occasionally beautiful though dialogue/monologue heavy film.

Indeed, Monster’s Club suggest of a slightly new kind of, though still easily recognizable Toyoda. His past rock soundtracks have made way to more classical tunes, and raging yakuzas have stepped down in favor of voices inside the protagonist’s head. There’s a more artistic and perhaps theatrical feel to it – which doesn’t always work but comes out clumsy in places. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting work from a director who has his own voice.

Donzumari benki (2012)

Another gritty indie from a Japanese female director (who, a bit ironically, have a tendency to leave the sappy girl-cinema to their male colleagues). The psycho-sexual film follows a mentally disturbed girl (Nanaha, from Zeze’s Heaven’s Story) and her brother (Kuniaki Nakamura) trying to get along under the same roof. The girl’s only aim in life, however, seems to infect everyone around her with her misery.

Occasionally intriguing and sometimes shocking indie fare comes out a little bit staged – an issue not eased by the instantly recognizable digital look of it. Acting is good, but cannot fully undone the common issue of traumatized characters not being all that interesting due to their obsessive behavior. Despite the large amount of sex featured in the film there is no bare skin on display – an artistic (?) choice that doesn’t feel quite natural in the context. The film marks feature length debut for the 27 year old director Haruhi Oguri.

Sidenote: The Friday night screening at Tokyo’s Eurospace was accompanied by Oguri, Nanaha, and Takahisa Zeze, who seemed like he might have had a rough party the previous night. Mr. Zeze stole the show whenever he wasn’t nodding off (click the picture for a bigger version)…

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