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January 22nd, 2007


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11:14 pm - Shinjuku Mad
*Shinjuku Mad* was one of
Koji Wakamatsu's
six films from 1970. Grim and gritty, stark and steady, burdened with anti-moralizing, generously padded with sex, and totally redeemed by a soundtrack that needs to be released NOW. I knew nothing about this film, loading it up on to my laptop, and every last one of this film's sixty-sixty minutes kept me riveted.

Bear with me. The film opens with the band cycling through a jazzy rave-up, the black and images depict dead Japanese throughout a modern city. From the alleyways of the slums, to center of the park, you catch glimpses of bodies everywhere. This introduction is capped off by a lingering shot of a blood-soaked naked woman, face down. By this point, the band has reached a sort of peak. There's a cut, the band changes the direction of the song a bit, and then we're treated to a series of exterior shots from downtown, the lunch hour, maybe. You see a lot of storefronts and stairwells, people moving about. All of the people in these splices are done in negative image.



What follows can only be described as harrowing. After the credits, the reel switches to color. We're treated to the on-screen stabbing of a young man in a toga, his attackers strip his special lady-friend of her toga, spend about two minutes smearing her breasts with still-warm blood, and then take turns raping her. She doesn't seem to put up much of a fight. The scene is lensed with all of the enthusiasm of a television spot for a whole foods market,

Well, that's a fucked up way to start a movie. If you're still reading, I'll have you know the brutality eases up a little, but the camera's tendency to seek out each scene's more lurid details is relentless. The band never lets up, either. Another constant feature of the film is the protagonist's alienation from society. That's a pretty dated-concept, in a way. This film is cashing in on what could loosely be called the Existential demographic in 1970's Japan. Parts of it could have been written by Oe. Others by Mishima. It definitely, at times, addresses a bit of that lingering air of revolution, but more on that later.

The father of the kid stabbed in Technicolor shows up in the nest reel, in the same apartment his son was murdered in. This confused, grieving father asks a totally baked Shoko Asahara for information about the events leading up to his son's death. The long-haired no-goodnik is toking on a Sharpie-sized doobie. He gets so fucking high he passes out and the dad is left there in the empty apartment, getting a major contact-buzz.

So, the plot is basically that kind of exchange in larger and larger settings, intercut with glorious shots of the disillusioned father walking through industrial slums. The father, searching for the "Why" to his son's death goes on his quest and pisses just about everyone he comes into contact with off. He goes into subway stations and totally kills some beatniks' buzzes. Then he bullies a Hare Krishna ROCK AND ROLL SUPERSTAR and his belly-dancing percussionist at a park. Then he heads off to a bar, and we're treated to what must have been Tokyo's Greatest Garage Band getting low-down and sleazy here. This scene pretty much sums up what the film is about. As you dig the scuzz and the fuzz, the camera catches all manner of degeneracy and wanton reefer-use. And the bar has no less than three groups of people making out. And they get excessive with the groping.

Eventually, the father catches the ringleader of the vicious band of murderer-rapists. "Shinjuku Mad," is his name. After an unbelievably long and convoluted exchange between the protagonist and Shinjuku Mad, it comes out that Mad and the boys are rebelling against all of Japan. It's open season on everyone but them. His son was only a casualty, nothing personal. Their intent is to go on rebelling against society through random acts of violence against people and property.

After going through all the trouble of finding Shinjuku Mad, the old man's mind is blown by revolution for revolution's sake. After a few pummellings, he manages to turn the fight around. He winds up leaving with a nude girl that had been tied to a post for the entire scene.

He goes back to the apartment his son was murdered in to find his special lady-friend naked with six other dope-smoking cats grooving on free love and blue balls.

He decides he's happier with Shinjuku Mad alive and kicking, the band is at another one of its high points, and the camera pans out to the railroad yard, telephones wires, and the bare sides of modern buildings.

That was Japan, thirty-seven years ago.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:city_of_walls
Date:January 23rd, 2007 07:35 pm (UTC)
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That sounds absolutely amazing. Is there any possible way i could get a copy of this from you? hehe.
[User Picture]
From:rjhudson
Date:January 23rd, 2007 08:31 pm (UTC)

The Cheshire Cat Mounting a Pikachu.

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Yeah, we can probably work something out. I'd like to check out more of this guy's work. His stats on IMDb make him out to be a prolific director. Cindy was reading something along the lines of his work getting heavily political, at points.

We took a trip into San Francisco. I finally got to go to the City Lights Bookstore. I picked up Twenty Prose Poems by Charles Baudelaire and 69 by Ryu Murakami.

Murakami's book is a Kodansha imprint, first copyright 1983. Not very impressed with this. Doesn't quite have the rush of Almost Transparent Blue, which I remember to be a quick read. . . something seemed urgent about the story. 69 just pussyfoots around. Murakami's got two tricks, so far as I can tell, in this novel. The first is that the translator, Ralph F. McCarthy, puts certain words in the text in a way larger FONT than the surrounding words. It gets so Dennis Fucking Rodman, it's sick.

The other thing he does is makes a statement, then dismisses it as horseshit. It was kind of funny, the first time he did. At one point, he puts the reader on for three pages. It's cute, I'll admit. But he plays it to death by the fifth chapter.

I haven't finished reading it, so it's probably best to write no more. I can say with certainty that if it had opened like Coin Locker Babies, I'd never have purchased it.

Anyway, I don't think I thanked you for the postcard, so thanks. We'll try to burn a dvd somehow as a token of our appreciation. We'll try to throw some AMT in.
[User Picture]
From:city_of_walls
Date:January 23rd, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
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Ah, there is no hurry for the burnt disc if you can manage it. I have plenty of films that I have yet to watch. I am just really enjoying films from that time period now, hehe. Sadly, the only Wakamatsu Koji film that I have watched so far is Go, Go, Second Time Virgin, but I want to remedy that, hehe.

I read 69 I believe back in 2002 when I first began grad school. I enjoyed it, but as you said it kind of turned on its head many of the issues that were going on at that time. I am going to using that book for my next Murakami Haruki paper which is going to be almost totally focused on the 1969-1970 divide.

You are welcome for the post card, and thanks again for the intro to AMT. they have become one of myfavorite groups to listen to as I read, hehe.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 4th, 2009 06:58 pm (UTC)

Wakamatsu's films

(Link)

Or you can also wait for the real DVD release...

In the meantime, check out Wakamatsu's latest festure: UNITED RED ARMY.

More details here: http://www.united-red-army.com/?language=en or http://www.facebook.com/pages/United-Red-Army-by-Koji-Wakamatsu/129443340182?ref=s
[User Picture]
From:rjhudson
Date:February 7th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)

Re: Wakamatsu's films

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Suck my dick?
From:hal0n
Date:January 24th, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)
(Link)
nothing to do with the post... but you might enjoy this like i did.

http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=3027130
[User Picture]
From:rjhudson
Date:January 24th, 2007 08:51 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Cindy and I saw a harness like that at the Shih-Lin nightmarket. I followed the woman wearing it for about two minutes before I realized it was a real dog she was carrying, and not some kind of dog-shaped backpack. The fact that such a backpack wouldn't be out of place on a woman in her twenties in Taiwan says a lot about Taiwan. But no. It was a real dog she was carrying on her back. I can't imagine a dog taking readily to that. Something about having its belly exposed should make him or her nervous.

What a weird series of photograph, though.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:rjhudson
Date:February 8th, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the heads-up. I went ahead and joined the community. It looks slightly less active than Thus Spake Nietzsche, but with a less dickish moderator. Drop in, anytime.
[User Picture]
From:woquinoncoin
Date:April 28th, 2007 06:56 am (UTC)
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Honey! Honey!

I just had a sudden realization that I wanted to share with you, but you're not here right now.

According to the "Appendices to the Three Principles of the People" added by Chiang Kai-shek, the color scheme in your journal represents everything the KMT hoped to keep out of its arts -- the "red" (Communism), the "yellow" (pornography) and the "black" (violence).

Go figure!

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