Kichiku (DVD)

Released by Arts Magic

Starring Shigeru Bokuda, Sumiko Mikami, Shunsuke Sawada, Toshiyuki Sugihara

Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri

Maybe I’m just not familiar enough with Japanese history to really get what was trying to be conveyed in Kichiku. The new release from Arts Magic boasts a ton of screamingly positive reviews on its packaging, but I must confess upon viewing it, I don’t agree with a single one.

The story is of a group of leftist kids at University sometime in 1970’s Japan. Before I go on, I would just like to point out that the only reason I know this was supposedly set in the 70’s is because it’s mentioned many times on the supplemental features on this disc . . . nothing about the film lends itself to any particular era.

Anyway, these kids are apparently some kind of politically motivated teens who like to cause rampant destruction to show their distaste for the “establishment” (again, information culled from the supplements), but what they seem to be are a bunch of slackers whose sole motivation currently rots away in jail. Their leader, as it were, was arrested for one crime or another you see, and now his girlfriend is running the group while he’s away. Apparently her leadership consists of feeding them a lot of noodles, dancing around in a strange mask while laughing hysterically for way too long (one of the many scenes that just went on and on and on), and having sex with any one of them at any given time.

When one of the kids (after being forced to leave because everyone thought he was an asshole) shows back up saying he’s going to join another, more motivated group (and who could blame him?), they decide to take him up into the mountains to do away with him. The drive into said mountains, I might add, goes on for a good 10 minutes and features no dialogue or anything that one would consider even remotely interesting on screen.

One other “plot point” that really has no bearing on anything, save for the girl’s sanity, is that their leader offs himself while in jail, apparently more willing to face whatever lies beyond than another night of noodles and watching his girlfriend hump all his friends. His former cellmate shows up at the group’s front door shortly before the trek into the mountains and does a lot of brooding and showing off of his kitana, but not much else.

Once their mountain destination is reached, some of the reviews on the DVD box start to make some sense, as it gets very brutal and graphically violent for about the last half of the film. The problem is that there’s so much not going on in the first half that by the time I got to the “good stuff,” I just couldn’t bring myself to care.

Arts Magic sparred no expense with this DVD release, so it’s obvious they’re seeing something I just can’t grasp. It’s a two-disc set, the second disc featuring interviews with all the principles (which helps enlighten the film a bit but does nothing to make it more enjoyable), a “making of” featurette that’s just a friend of the director pointing a camcorder at the filming of all the gory stuff, “Reaction to Kichiku” (which shows the director being very happy that so many people liked his film), and an intro by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes (editor of Midnight Eye and author of the FAB Press book Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike).

This last bit is the most interesting because Mes really knows his stuff. Not only does he pronounce all the names spot-on (something I have instant respect for), but he’s also able to delve into all the nuances of the film that someone like me, for instance, just can’t see. His talk about the film, which runs about 15 minutes or so, was enough to help me appreciate at least what the director was trying to do, not necessarily what he had accomplished. It’s billed as an “Intro” by Tom Mes, even though it’s actually on the second disc, but I recommend giving it a listen before you attempt the entire movie. It might help you enjoy it more than I did.

All in all, this is another solid release from Arts Magic. Despite the quality of the film the disc is based around, it’s still an excellent bit of work for the fledgling company; and I can only imagine how wonderfully they could handle the DVD release of an Asian film I could actually understand. Check out their official website for more on what they have to offer in the coming months, and if you’re feeling up to it, use the link below to see if Kichiku is a movie you can get behind.

3 out of 5

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Johnny Butane