Shinji Somai

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Shinji Somai

#126 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Sep 27, 2022 11:23 am

feihong -- Thanks for the detailed review!

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feihong
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Re: Shinji Somai

#127 Post by feihong » Tue Sep 27, 2022 11:33 pm

I mean, a less-than-nearly-perfect Somai movie is still 100 times better than most movies out there––better and more interesting than a Ron Shelton movie or a Shane Black movie or a Barry Levinson movie, for sure. Sorry, Barry Levinson, but it's true.

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Re: Shinji Somai

#128 Post by beamish14 » Wed Sep 28, 2022 9:54 am

feihong wrote:
Tue Sep 27, 2022 11:33 pm
I mean, a less-than-nearly-perfect Somai movie is still 100 times better than most movies out there––better and more interesting than a Ron Shelton movie or a Shane Black movie or a Barry Levinson movie, for sure. Sorry, Barry Levinson, but it's true.
Despite being an unabashed fan of Bull Durham, The Last Boy Scout, and Young Sherlock Holmes, I’ll still side with you

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Re: Shinji Somai

#129 Post by feihong » Fri Nov 04, 2022 7:08 pm

Typhoon Club looks great on blu ray, and, in a stunning reversal of standard policy for Japanese blu rays, has an English subtitle track. The subtitles are very close to the ones that have been floating around the internet for years, though there seem to be some minor differences. Teacher Umemiya addresses his class as "children of farmers" in this version, rather than "children of peasants." The valence is changed just slightly. It's not much, however. The translation does extend here all the way into the ending credits, translating the early lines of the broadcast we hear faintly over the ending credits, which seems like a new improvement on the subs. The disc includes no extras, save for an awkward trailer for the film (which looks like it's from the era of release, and which seems designed to make people of the time shocked; it includes parts of the abbreviated lesbian sex scene, as well as the horrific rape scene from later in the movie), which hasn't been preserved at the same level of quality as the feature. But the English subtitles should be all the extras anybody needs for a quality disc of a masterpiece movie.

The picture is like a lot of recent archival releases of early 80s Japanese movies, similar to the Kadowkawa releases of Obayashi films, similar to Pony Canyon's releases of Gosha's Goyokin and Hitokiri (Tenchu). There is a lot of grain present. The film doesn't appear to have been restored, but the transfer is very clean. There are just a few little pops and scratches occasionally, mostly early in the picture. There is a slight softness to the grain, as if some of it has had a little more DNR applied than not. It doesn't stop images from looking sharp, and it doesn't flatten the lovely depth of the image. The color is vividly realistic, and the image is very stable and solid. The picture itself is very dark for its era, with a lot of heavy black space. But what this version of the film reveals is the subtle, natural-seeming lighting of the picture––as well as lots of background details which are intriguing. There's a seen where Rie (Yuuki Kodou, who was in Mystery Train only 4 years later?) meets a college student in Tokyo, Kobayashi, played by Obayashi favorite Toshinori Omi. Kobayahsi takes Rie to his apartment. It slowly dawns on Rie that he expects to sleep with her, and she starts angling for a way out of his place. Something I never noticed before: on the card table in the center of Kobayashi's apartment are a bunch of gun collector magazines, and what is probably a replica pistol. Just fascinating details. The scene where Mikami sits on the bookshelves, framed by chains of origami––and the scene where Rie encounters the couple taped together, rolling back and forth in the deserted arcade, both look just breathtaking on blu ray. Such exquisitely-rendered images. They have to be seen to be believed.

As for the film itself, if you are on the fence about buying the disc, you should definitely do it. This is a great movie, a dark and sardonic film in which children fight not to surrender to the drift and compromise of adulthood, realized with a really unique mis en scene which makes the story more moving and intense, and which isn't really duplicated in any other picture (save for the same director's films P.P. Rider, Lost Chapter: Passion in Snow, Love Hotel, Luminous Woman, and Tokyo Heaven; Somai's other pictures, including The Catch, Sailor Suit Schoolgirl with a Machine Gun, and Kaza-Hana, are envisioned a little bit differently). It's a Japanese adaptation of The Breakfast Club where all the teenagers are realistically horny, and they reach no real understanding with one another, because that's something Somai doesn't really believe in. The provincial students are shut away in the school when a typhoon hits, bringing out their stresses, their pain at growing up, and their pent-up libidos. That's about all there is for plot, though one of their teachers has some drama surrounding his being pressured into marriage to his ex-girlfriend. The action of the film follows the different students, all with very different outlooks, taking wildly different approaches to solving their own problems, scratching their itch, what have you. The film has probably the most fully-realized and effective use of Somai's signature plan-shot style, with swooping handheld camera moves combined with extremely long takes. It's a unique mis en scene, far wilder-feeling and less formal than, say, Angelopoulos, capturing not just the artful, observational remove of Angelopoulos' camera, but also the energetic charge one gets from the handheld work in early Godard. The performances are raw and absorbing. It is, to me, a much more serious movie than The Breakfast Club––but also funnier, as well. There really is not another film anything like it––and I'm including The Breakfast Club in that comparison. One thing that struck me viewing the film this time around was Yuuki Kudou's character, Rie's journey to Tokyo, which is cross-cut with the students stuck in the school. I used to think of Rie's journey in different terms from what happens to the other students––as if her story was extraneous to the principal story. But this time around I could see how important a comparison & contrast Rie's experience is to the other children's experiences. She confronts her conflicts, probably the most successfully of all the children, putting herself in perhaps just exactly the right amount of danger to be able to face herself and question her own choices. The others––Mikami especially, as the character paired most directly with Rie––don't succeed in making the whole journey Rie does, and they're left flailing a bit at the surprising climax of the story. The seriocomic treatment of Mikami at the end may seem jarring to some, but I think there are many hints throughout the movie that Somai doesn't like this character, and is taking every opportunity he sees to ridicule him. As Mikami and Rie's paths diverge, Mikami becomes most successfully paired in the story with teacher Umemiya, who is also a sort of a sad buffoon within the film's logic. Mikami clutches his childhood very hard as the other students' libidos start raging (he tells them at one point that they've all gone crazy), but he also tries throughout the picture, with increasing incompetence, to achieve a kind of adult authority. When Somai
SpoilerShow
arranges Mikami a la Wile E. Coyote, body buried in the mud but for his legs splayed awkwardly out of the ground and quivering
at the end of the picture, I see Somai mocking this too-serious figure, who won't allow adulthood and childhood to mix in any random way, but who demands more control than Somai thinks is naturally possible. Rie, by comparison, has found a way to successfully synthesize her childhood mind with her developing maturity; there is still the capacity for wonderment in her as she analogizes the flooded school to Mishima's temple of the golden pavilion at the end of the film, but she carries herself with a more measured poise than before. She has become what is frequently Somai's favorite character type; the figure who learns to gracefully hold onto the imaginative, expressive state of childhood and at the same time wear the facade of adulthood, a form of measured, considered poise and grace that hides the anarchic impulses and fancies within. We see this character frequently in Somai's pictures; Bruce in P.P. Rider, Izumi in Sailor Suit Schoolgirl with a Machine Gun, Shunichi the wannabe fisherman in The Catch, the nearly out-of-control, dangerous fantasist, Tetsuro, who must pretend at enough adulthood to sacrifice his contentment for somebody else in Love Hotel, Iori, a girl constantly reverting to childish gesture in Lost Chapter: Passion in Snow––but who must get it together enough to solve a murder––Sensaku in Luminous Woman, Yuu, the anarchic sprite of Tokyo Heaven, who grows more serious as she feels love dawning upon her. Even Sawaki in Kaza-Hana has this childish side he tries to preserve (though in that movie the role is flipped a bit, and it is his more responsible, adult side he needs to rely upon in order to save the day). Renko in Ohikkoshi (Moving) is a similar character, but that movie shows Renko's anarchic child side getting starved away by the specters of her own parents' greedy inner children. Ohikkoshi is the beginning of this transition in Somai's work, where this imaginative, playful figure––who can synthesize childhood and at least the veneer of adulthood––begins to be seen as something other than ideal. The tricky pseudo con-man long-lost father in Wait and See is an example of the weird souring that happens in the Somai movies of the 90s.

Typhoon Club, thankfully, is totally free of that misery that later takes over Somai's work (though none of the films are bad––probably The Friends and Wait and See are the most disappointingly ordinary pictures, and Kaza-Hana would be in there, too, if it weren't simply more absorbing, and just made with more energy, across the board). Typhoon Club offers a perfect alignment of a filmmaker's unique style and talents with the subject matter that best suits him. The blu ray does it real justice, and is worth your time.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Shinji Somai

#130 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Nov 04, 2022 7:34 pm

Thanks for the review. I will have to say if I can get my hands on this to replace my old unsubbed (and unprepossessing) DVD. I'm not sure I'll ever like the films little morning-after epilogue (which I personally did not find either funny or satisfying), but otherwise I find this pretty intriguing.

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bad future
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Re: Shinji Somai

#131 Post by bad future » Fri Nov 04, 2022 10:07 pm

Glad to hear the blu-ray does the film justice. I've got a copy on the way from YesAsia which should hopefully reach me this week. Thanks for the writeup, too. I discovered this film early in the COVID lockdown era and the spell it cast has really lingered; excited to revisit soon.

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Re: Shinji Somai

#132 Post by Calvin » Sat Nov 05, 2022 1:07 pm

Thanks for the appreciation, feihong. I'm glad to hear that the Blu-Ray is worthwhile; I'm looking forward to it arriving. It seems to be doing fairly well on the Amazon sales rankings so hopefully that spurs Odyssey into releasing another one.

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Re: Shinji Somai

#133 Post by feihong » Sat Nov 05, 2022 6:52 pm

My hope is for P.P. Rider to get a release. The rep for Odessa told me they would consider it or other titles if Typhoon Club does well enough to merit it.

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