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Yoshihiro Nishimura Early Works

March 27, 2014

Long before Tokyo Gore Police…

The Face (1985)
The Saints Come Marching In (Seija ga machi ni yatte kita) (1986)
Fake Country (Nise kuni) (1987)

In 2014 Yoshihiro Nishimura screened his excellent early horror film Paradox (1984) in Yubari (see my review here). The screening was essentially a continuation of the previous year’s event in Yubari, which saw the screenings of three mid 80’s Nishimura films, all shot on 8mm and running 40-50 min each.

Nishimura’s university era works The Face (1985), The Saints Come Marching In (1986) and Fake Country (1987) offer a fascinating look into the director’s development towards cyberpunk and gore. The Face, just like in Paradox (1984), clearly displays Nishimura’s love for hand-made special effects. The odd 40 minute film follows a student who gets involved in a murder mystery when a murdered detective’s face mysteriously mutates into his stomach and guides him to seek justice for the dead soul.

The buddy film is quite restrained compared to Nishimura’s more recent works, or even Paradox, but quite entertaining. It’s characterized by a strong 1980’s indie / student film vibe. Instead of blood and gore the focus is on romantic encounters and city footage, which are set against an energetic pop score. Were it not for the mutated face on the main character’s stomach, the film would be almost conventional. The first gore effects are only featured during the closing credits, where Nishimura is credited as Crazy Pierrot – a pseudonym Nishimura was using during the early years of his career.

The Saints Come Marching In (1986) opens very much in the same style as The Face. For the first 20 minutes it’s a bright and easy going student drama. After that, however, the film moves to the nightmare territory. The main character gets chased by masked strangers, and the film gets more and more surreal. Gore effects are introduced as well, though they are still relatively few. Nishimura’s skill in synchronising images and music is again clearly visible.

The Saints Come Marching In is also a real curiosity for its casting. The main character is played by Tokuma, who later became a well known singer and a politician who ran for the governor of Tokyo in 2012. Female lead Renho Murata likewise is a popular and even more successful politician. They both attended the same university as Nishimura. No doubt there couldn’t have been a better start for their careers; unfortunately, in their current positions they may prefer their past kept hidden in Nishimura’s vaults.

Nishimura’s third student film, Fake Country (1987) is a full metamorphosis into the cyberpunk he is known for. The ambitious sci-fi film is set during WWIII, in which Japan is fighting the war with human missiles – an upgrade from human torpedoes which Japan used in WWII. One soldier, however, decides not to throw his life away and makes a run for it, only to find himself chased by the government troops.

Even at less than one hour Fake Country is a heavy experience to digest. Gone are all the light and pop music from Nishimura’s earlier films. Every single scene is set during the night. It’s an impressive vision by a young director, and ought to have made Nishimura a well known name. Nishimura did, in fact, submit the film to Japan’s famed indie film fest PIA Film Festival, but for some reason it was rejected. However, Nishimura says he later received a letter from Akira Hoshino, who was a member of the jury, saying he personally thought the film was awesome. He was right, the film is pretty awesome.

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