often hear clichés like “it’s what’s inside that counts” as a bland way to
advocate tolerance. Unfortunately, the governments of the near future will
pervert such sentiments to exploit fear and uncertainty. It seems those who
experience close encounters with UFOs have had their blood turned blue. As a
result, their loyalty and very humanity is now questioned in the highest government
offices. The combination of fear and power yields harrowing results in Kihachi
Okamoto’s Blue Christmas (trailer here), which screens
during the Japan Society’s film series, Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures & Fantasies in Japanese Cinema.
might just be the worst Christmas ever. There has been a rash of UFO sightings,
but only maverick scientist Dr. Teruhiko Hyodo is sufficiently impolitic to
discuss them in public. In a likely case of cause and effect, the researcher is
abducted immediately following his controversial conference address.
Experienced muckraker Kazuya Minami is assigned the story, but it is unclear
whether the top executives at his media conglomerate really want him to find
the truth-talking doctor.
will have good reason to doubt the good faith of his superiors. Before he
leaves to pursue leads in New York, he passes along a strange bit of gossip to
his editor. Apparently, Yuko Takamatsu, the newly discovered star of an
upcoming network historical epic has blue blood (and not in the colloquial
English sense). Minami’s source is none other than her entertainment journalist
lover. Quite suspiciously, Takamatsu is framed for drug possession and forced
out of the production shortly thereafter, while Minami is on assignment.
the taciturn military intelligence officer Taisuke Oki is clearly planning for
something unpleasant. Currently in hurry-up-and-wait mood, he often frequents a
barbershop near the base, because of his hard crush on Saeko Nishida a shy
junior barber employed there. He too has strange experiences with disappearing
like the way Fassbinder’s World on a Wire
prefigured the themes and narrative elements of The Matrix decades earlier, the post-Watergate Blue Christmas eerily foreshadows the conspiracy mythology of The X-Files. However, Blue Christmas is even more paranoid
with respects to political institutions and far more brutal in its depiction of
the ultimate machinations.
most significantly, Blue Christmas features
the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai playing Minami, who might just be the classic
movie journalist of all time. Sure, he is a virtuous crusader for truth, but he
also understands the necessity of discretion with respects to valor. Furthering
heightening the tragedy, Hiroshi Katsuno and Keiko Takeshita develop some
exquisitely awkward but poignant chemistry together as Oki and Nishida, respectively.
Perhaps because screenwriter Sô Kuramoto was forced
to edit his acclaimed script (originally published in a film journal), the loop
doesn’t always get closed for every subplot. This is particularly true of “The
Humanoids,” a Beatles like western band, whose hit song is ubiquitous
throughout the film. Whether they are tools or victims of the shadowy cabal
remains open to debate. However, one thing is for sure—any Tatsuya Nakadai is worth
seeing—and he’s terrific in this one. Somehow, it feels both perfectly of and
ahead of its time. Highly recommended for fans of UFO conspiracy theory science
fiction, Blue Christmas screens this
Saturday (4/8) at the Japan Society, as part of Beyond Godzilla.
Labels: 5 Japanese Divas, Berlin & Beyond '15, Sci-Fi films, Tatsuya Nakadai