he a teenaged John Galt or is something more sinister afoot? Either way, the mysterious absence of a high
school’s top BMOC leaves a void his peers will struggle to fill in Daihachi
Yoshida’s The Kirishima Thing (trailer here), which screens tonight
as a co-presentation of this year’s Japan Cuts and the New York Asian Film Festival.
though he was selected to the state squad, Kirishima has reportedly quit the
volleyball team. His friends and
teammates have yet to hear it from him directly, because he has not been to
class lately. He has not even contacted his bombshell girlfriend Risa, whose
insecurity mounts when everyone turns to her for answers.
is still at the top of the social pyramid, but the interregnum loosens her hold
on Kasumi Higashihara, a geek-turned-hottie.
Temporarily falling back into old habits, she even attends a Tetsuo screening where she runs into
Ryoya Maeda, the socially awkward leader of the school’s film club. Picking up on the spirit of anarchy, Maeda
convinces the club to defy their faculty advisor by shooting the sort of zombie
film they always wanted to make.
Maeda starts to get ideas about everything, including Higashihara, prize-winning
band saxophonist Aya Samashima considers acting on her attraction to Kirishima’s
elitist crony, Hiroki Kikuchi. However,
these are not pleasant times for the bench-warmer taking Kirishima’s place on
the team, thanks to Kubo, the punishing team captain.
the established social order breakdown or will knuckle-draggers like Kubo
maintain it the hard way? Just how
irreplaceable is Kirishima to the school’s social ecosystem anyway? It is hard to say for certain, because K Thing presents so many conflicting
viewpoints. Kirishima and his absence mean many things to many people. He is probably a better chap than Kubo, but
viewers never have the chance to see for themselves. Instead, he serves as a giant Rohrschach to
evaluate his peers.
doubling-back, K Thing excessively analyzes
relatively mundane encounters from just about every POV. At times, it really is overkill, but in the
process, Yoshida fully develops his large cast of characters and their
intricate relationship dynamics. When
the film is over, alert audience members will be able to produce flow charts of
who likes who. Despite the mysterious
vibe lurking over the proceedings (and an occasional zombie flight of fantasy),
these kids and their school feel really real.
some things about high school are universal, but this student body is unusually
good looking. Nevertheless, Ai Hashimoto
is fantastic as the chameleon-like Higashihara.
Who she is largely depends on who she is with, but Yoshida never
condemns her for that. Arguably, it is a reflection of human nature. Suzuka
Ohgo is compellingly intense as Sawashima, even though she hardly looks like a
band-geek. Appropriately ambiguous, Ryunosuke Kamiki’s Maeda comes across as a
half-victim and half-provocateur, which suits the film nicely.
Thing will not shake
viewers to their souls like Tetsuya Nakashima’s thematically related Confessions, but it will still get under
their skin. One could argue it is also
more genre than it initially appears. Yoshida skillfully balances his large
ensemble, getting brutally honest performances out of the young but
accomplished cast-members. Recommended for those who appreciate dark teen
dramas, The Kirishima Thing screens
tonight (7/14) at the Japan Society, as a co-programmed selection of Japan Cuts
and the New York Asian Film Festival.
Labels: Japan Cuts '13, Japanese Cinema, NYAFF '13