Posts in: June, 1999

Battle Royale Report

Battle Royale Report

Ever since I heard about the controversy and saw the trailer, I had to
see Battle Royale
for myself. The commercial made me think I’d get plenty of campy,
action-packed goodness. So when
a friend told me it’d be screening at a film theater in my area(The Egyptian
on Hollywood), I
hurried and got myself a ticket. And I was fortunate to have gotten mine in
advance, because they
were sold out on the same day the movie was showing. And what a day it was.
Knowing the awful
parking I’d have to deal with, I showed up about 45 minutes early; and there
was a HUGE line of
people waiting to get in. (It almost extended to the block.) As for the
typed of people there,
they were generally men and women in their 20’s and 30’s. (with some in
their 40’s)
Apparently, the director(Kinji Fukasaku) was the big highlight of the
show. He was getting
photographed by many people. (I think there might’ve been someone who was
recording the event
for Japanese tv.) And the audience went wild when he was there to introduce
Battle Royale. As
for me, I was kind of shocked that he was older than I expected him to be. I
was thinking maybe
he’d be some young avant-garde filmmaker who didn’t take abuse from anyone.
(I even confused
his son for him.)
[For those interested, this was Fukasaku’s 60th film. (He’d been in the
industry since the
60’s.) He’s most famous for yakuza(Japanese gangster) movies, with his 1973
“Battles Without
Honor And Humanity” being voted one of the 20 Best Japanese Movies of all
times by Japanese
critics.]
I also was surprised about how good-humored he was. [The whole
atmosphere strangely seemed
that way, what with the music of female j-pop singers playing before the
show started. And one
woman brought her CHILDREN to see the film.] He was joking about the whole
controversy, saying
that the film was given a rating of “R-15”; and then he attacked the rating
by stating it should
have been rated R-50. (“People who are 50 aren’t allowed to see it.” [I’m
paraphrasing, by the way.])
And sadly, I did not get an interview with him, because I had to leave as
soon as the movie ended.
But one of the presenters there mentioned that Fukasaku’s touring his films
across the country-
through major cities like New York, Cleveland, and Toronto-so hopefully
fellow ANS readers will
have the opportunity to see Battle Royale as well. (And for those interested
in importing the dvd
-whenever it comes out-Toei distributed this film.)
Now on to the movie. Basically, the plot is about Japan going through an
economic crisis,
and kids getting out of control.[In one early scene, a kid stabs his
teacher.] So a government
policy is instituted. Known as the Battle Royale Project,
students(particularly middle school
students) are randomly picked, and dragged onto an island.In a twisted
version of Survivor,
they’re forced to kill each other-in an alloted time-until one student
survives. Otherwise,
the collars the kids are wearing will explode, when the time is up.
In typical high-school movie fashion, the students all play stereotypical
roles. There’s the
slut, the popular girl, the loner, the gang-member(maybe a jock), and the
loser who’s really
the winner. But to keep up with current times, there’s even (for the
computer age) a hacker and
a Goth. Yes, you heard me: a Goth! I was almost about to ask the director if
he wrote this as a
satire about the furor over Columbine. And surveying these students’ carnage
was their fascist
teacher, by the name of Kitano. (Played by famous Japanese actor Takeshi
Kitano. I’ll get to him
later.)
I wasn’t expecting any humor in a film like this, but some of the
unexpected jokes were over
the top. I mean how would you react to a cheerful “how-to” video, in which
the female instructor
gleefully shows students the proper rules to kill your fellow peers? I think
there was also a
small pun on Romeo and Juliet in one scene. (I won’t say how, cus then that
would be a spoiler.)
How they managed to fit in a small love triangle in this movie also astounds
me. And the climax
of the film-with Kitano-was so unbelievable, (and yet hilarious) that the
audience had to applaud
it.
And the music! They actually use cheerful tunes, such as one of the middle
compositions in
2001, as well as a traditional wedding song. I don’t know if they were
trying to add comic relief,
or whether they were trying to be morbid, but one can’t help laugh about how
inappropriate those
themes are in the film.
As for the violence, it IS shocking. With weapons such as axes, scythes,
machine guns, hand-
guns, bombs, tazers, and even grenades being used, you can tell the action
will end up being
hectic. Even though Japanese youths as young as 15 were allowed to see it in
their native
country, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MPAA gave this movie an NC-17.
Audience members were
gasping at some scenes. So anyone considering seeing this movie should be
warned, if they have
a weak stomach.
As for the actors, there were only 3 that really impressed me: the one who
played the gang-
member[I didn’t have time to get his name, but he was known as “Kawada” in
the movie.], the
actor who played the Goth [Don’t remember his name either.], and Kitano
himself.
While the focus is on the loser-turned-hero,he doesn’t leave enough of an
impression to be
remembered. They try to make his past as tragic as possible, but the
audience tended to chuckle
more often than feel for him. The gang-member is the real attraction in the
film, with his
easy-going attitude, his quick reactions, and his overall togetherness. All
I can say is that
he’s got the potential to be in major roles for future films. The Goth is
basically this