Monday, September 10, 2012

PiFan 2012: Osaka Violence (大阪外道, Japan) 2012

Part of MKC's coverage of the 16th Puchon International Film Festival.

The main prize-winner at this year’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival, Takahiro Ishihara’s Osaka Violence, is a gritty film which employs both a realistic aesthetic and deadpan excessiveness to bring home its point. As its title suggests, the film concerns the prevalence of violence in Osaka, it is depicted as the most commonplace of acts, a cyclical ritual that is absorbed from a young age through the ebb and flow of everyday life.

The film begins with a group of young boys loitering on some farmland. The owner comes up to shoo away the trespassers but is subjected to a tirade of disrespect and abuse. They walk off, leaving the old man stunned. Things have changed in Japan and certain elements of society, such as respect, are evolving but not always in a good way. This demonstration of apathy is a logical starting point for the film. The boys’ trip through their Osaka neighborhood introduces us to an increasingly apathetic subset of its inhabitants. First they cross a gangster who is friendly to them and gives them money. Their new found fortune is swiftly taken away by a group of older boys who threaten them but this new gang is in turn beaten to a pulp by an older, burlier gangster who demands a toll for crossing under ‘his’ bridge. Suddenly, their lack of respect towards the old farmer from the opening scene is not so shocking.

There are many bridges in the film and at the foot of each a man carrying out abject acts of violence. It’s significant that the young boys witness these wanton, senseless crimes from the bridge’s elevated vantage point. At their young age they are in a transition phase, they absorb everything around them but both ends of the overpass lead to the exact same thing, a grim, bloody future and a likely early grave. Their destiny seems inescapable.

One of the boys toys with the idea of taking on a job as a bike messenger but his father tells him that there is no need for him to worry about money, he should just play on the streets while he is still young. The father is a good man who wants to steer his son away from a bad life but he misses an opportunity to put him on the straight and narrow and when he falls into a coma following a work accident, his son will be at the mercy of the streets.

All of these elements add up to a very interesting film, however it is an extremely low-budget affair that is somewhat undermined by its reliance on a mostly non-professional cast and inexperienced crew. The film is not very attractive and while this is certainly the aim, its gritty aesthetic could have been more assiduous in its realization. The mood, which is extremely droll, is both humorous and terrifying but doesn’t always come off as balanced. However, these are just a few minor bumps from a young director who is still trying to find his feet. I am looking forward to his next project, which I hope will come with a larger budget and a more experienced film crew.


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