Battle Royale

April 8, 2008

Battle Royale (2000)
Dir. Kinji Fukasaku
“Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda

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Could a movie like Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale be made in America? I doubt it. Especially post 9/11. There were rumors of it being made at one point, but I haven’t heard anything of late. There have been plenty of U.S. horror flicks, exploitation flicks, and violent action flicks after the fall of the towers and the invasion of Iraq, some even addressing the events, but none really condemning violence and war itself. None that I can think of anyway. Is War of the Worlds anti war because it depicts a scene reminiscent of people running as the towers fell? How about the current Cloverfield? An obvious analogy to the events of 9/11. I didn’t see it, and although I read a few objectionable reviews about using 9/11 as a platform for a horror movie, it seemed like most viewers took it for what it was, a monster movie.

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What does 9/11 have to do with Battle Royale? Nothing really. It came out in 2000, a full year after the killings at Columbine High and a year before 9/11. I think its what has happened in America after 9/11, where Battle Royal seems to reflect American society. In Fukasaku’s film, during a national crisis in Japan with millions out of work, the government, in a panic, implements the “Battle Royal” act.

  • “At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act – AKA: The BR Act…”

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The BR act involves a game, in which every year an entire class of high-schoolers are shipped to an island and forced to kill each other. The sole survivor of the game gets to live and return home, but only if everyone else is killed. Special collars are fitted on each student. If the rules aren’t followed, the collar explodes, taking their head off. The games apparently are followed by the general public, although they aren’t televised. The winner however, is video tapped on their return.

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To many film-goers this premise seemed ridiculous and absurd. But it wasn’t to Fukasaku, who grew up during WWII in Japan, and saw first hand how a civilization can be brought to barbarism. How family and friends can easily turn on each other when the will to survive kicks in and instincts take over. And as far as the BR act being more science fiction than fact, the “Patriot Act” was implemented merely a month after 9/11, giving law enforcement agencies unprecedented powers in the name of “national security”.

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What’s amazing about Fukasaku is that he strips all romantic notions about war and violence from his films. That’s something that Americans can’t seem to do. Saving Private Ryan for all its amazing technical achievements, and realistic depictions of battle, still had a sentimental and nostalgic atmosphere to it. I remember seeing the trailer for that film, where they used an image ripped right out of Gone with The Wind where Scarlett O’Hara claims she’ll never go hungry again, with the sunset setting behind her. In the trailer, it’s the image of a soldier just coming over a hill. This is how Hollywood depicts war and violence, with romance.

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You won’t find that in Fukasakus films, and it’s the real reason Battle Royale was never released in America, and probably will never be remade here. He addresses the cause of violence head on, the reasons why we kill, the reasons why we kill our own brothers, or send them off to be killed, in a ritualistic attempt to appease the gods, that have forsaken us; blown up the volcano, raised the river, broke the damn and bombed the city.

It’s easy to be fooled by Fukasaku’s B-Movie style into thinking Battle Royale is nothing more than an exploitation flick. Indeed, Fukusaku knows his exploitation, but unlike say Brian DePalma or Tarantino, Fukusaku is sharing first hand experience of the human condition under the most terrifying conditions. He’s seen what humans are capable of doing, much more horrific than anything Michael Myers or Jason or Freddy Kruger could ever hope to achieve or imagine.

So, how come America looks forward to the remakes of “Halloween” and “Dawn of the Dead”, but shuns the genius of Battle Royale ?

It’s hard to look in the mirror sometimes.

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Chuck Heston R.I.P

April 6, 2008

I hated his politics, but I guess Badazz Mofo explains it the best for me.

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I Hate Movies

April 4, 2008

Actually, I love movies.

So how come I don’t got see them anymore? There was a time I would not miss an opening of either an anticipated blockbuster like “Transformers” or a smaller flick like “Juno”. Haven’t seen either one of them. These days when it comes to going to the flicks I don’t really give a shit and I’m not sure exactly why. Although I didn’t see “No Country For Old Men” in the theaters, I did read the book. Let’s just say, it wasn’t any “Blood Meridian”, but was somewhat entertaining.  Anyway, after reading the book, I felt I had already seen the movie.  It read like a movie script. I didn’t see “There Will Be Blood” or “Michael Clayton” but I did read the scripts, and enjoyed both of them, very good reads. So I’ll read the book or script of a film, but for some reason won’t get my lazy ass up to see the movie in the theater. I don’t know.

I got back on the Netflix thing recently. I had been a member from the start, then dropped it after I figured out that you couldn’t rent as many movies as you wanted in a month no matter how hard you tried. The mail service only works so fast. Plus, despite the fact that there was no limit, I felt pressured to rent as many DVD’s as I could to make the investment worth my while. I never felt relaxed with the shit, so I let it go. Then I buckled under the numerous “Please come back to Netflix” emails.

So far I’ve rented four DVD’s. “The Collector” and “Harper” and “Cruising”. And although I had seen it before, I couldn’t get through “The Days of Wine and Roses”.

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Talk about a schizophrenic flick. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a drama with comedy? I love Jack Lemmon, he gives his all in the movie, but he was miscast. He pulls some of those classic Jack Lemmon faces that simply undermine the integrity of the material. And Blake Edwards is as pedestrian a director as they come. What did catch my attention about the flick was the lighting. Amazing. Lee Remick is great in it. Maybe I should have put her character in the “Tragic Vixen” post.

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The weird thing about the movie and Lemmon’s performance is that it can’t escape, from my mind at least, the numerous comedic characters that Lemmon had performed all around it. “The Days of Wine and Roses” came out in 1962. From 1960 to 1968, Lemmon performed mostly in comedies. “The Apartment”, “Irma LeDuce”, “How To Murder Your Wife”, “Good Neighbor Sam”, “The Great Race”, “The Fortune Cookie” and “The Odd Couple”. And although “Wine” came out before several of those films, I can’t stop thinking about Lemmon as a comedic actor instead of an actor. So I didn’t buy him in “Wine”, and some of it is his fault for getting his Lemmon on with the character. However, he did rock it in “Glenn Gary Glenn Ross” and “Short Cuts”. I guess Cliff Robertson played the Lemmon role in Playhouse 90’s original in 1958. Maybe that’s the one to find.

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I couldn’t sleep the other night so I decided to prowl through my girlfriend’s VHS library and ended up popping in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”. Lynch is a true American original, right up there with Altman as an iconoclast, and Woody Allen as an auteur . I was blown away by “Mulholland Drive” when I saw it in the theater, when I still went to movies, and I was still blown away by it, even on pan and scan VHS.

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Other than Fellini, I don’t know of another filmmaker that can capture the elusiveness and familiarity of dreams on film. Anyway, the movie is mesmerizing, and reminded me, at 2:30 in the morning, why I love movies, even though I don’t go see them anymore. Even though I was anticipating when that dude behind the dumpster appears, I was so determined not to get freaked out that… I GOT FREAKED OUT.

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Silencio!