content with the sarin gas cult and the United Red Amy, transgressive auteur Toshiaki
Toyoda has also relocated Ted Kaczynski to Japan. He’s welcome to him. Toyoda’s takes the audience inside the cabin
of Ryoichi Kakiuchi, as he is called in this context, if not necessarily his soul
in Monster’s Club (trailer here), which screens as
a joint presentation of the 2012 Japan Cuts and New York Asian film festivals.
likes to send bombs to prominent members of the economic establishment. Everyone should have a hobby. If you are wondering why, he’d be happy to
explain. His Henry George-ish ideas on
labor and production are the whole point of his terrorism. He was not always a psychopathic loner. Viewers will come to suspect his evil
evolution was initiated by some profound family trauma, most notably involving
the radical brother he idolized, when the mad bomber is visited by either ghosts
from the past or hallucinations.
not exactly soliciting sympathy for Kakiuchi, Toyoda expects viewers to appreciate
his complexity. However, the
soul-deadened fanatic seems a rather simplistic, emotionally frozen character. After a few setbacks in life, suddenly everyone
is either an exploiter or an unenlightened slave in his judgment and therefore
fair game for devices that go boom.
patrons are well within their rights if they decide they are disinclined to
identify with someone who kills people to serve his extremist ideology right
from the outset. To make matters more
daunting, the severe reserve of Eita’s performance and the chilly detachment of
Toyoda’s approach do little to pull in the reluctant, in spite of themselves.
bold stylist, Toyoda creates some striking visuals in Club. Yet, the epic
catharsis of his last film, Blood of Rebirth, is conspicuously missing here.
A metaphysical allegory largely considered a veiled commentary on his much
publicized legal trouble, Toyoda dragged the archetypal Buddhist hero Oguri Hangan
Daisukeshige through the dark recesses of his soul, ultimately embracing life
on the other side. Conversely, Kakiuchi
withdraws from life, while rhetorically berating those who live an unexamined
existence. Rebirth also had some monster drum breaks. Still, Mayuu Kusakari, who was so devastating
in Toyoda’s prior film, again has some finely turned moments in a smaller role,
Kakiuchi’s sister, who is alive and well and beginning to understand her
brother is out of his mind.
If you are looking for whizbang plotting, this
is not the film for you. If your
aesthetic sensibility leans more towards the austere, then maybe. It is certainly a challenging cinematic
statement by any measure, but at least it clocks in at a manageable seventy-two
minutes. Toyoda is a filmmaker who
always merits attention and his work has a tendency to appreciate in the
viewers’ subconscious. In retrospect, Rebirth has become one of my most vivid
cinematic memories of 2010, so who knows how Club will ferment over time.
Narrowly recommended for hardy and slightly unkempt cineastes, rather
than us tragically unhip bourgeoisie, Monster’s
Club screens Sunday (7/15) as a co-selection of this year’s Japan Cuts: The
New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema and the 2012 New York Asian
Labels: Japan Cuts '12, Japanese Cinema, NYAFF '12, Toshiaki Toyoda