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Japan, 1966 (MIFF 2000, Seijun Suzuki – Violence & Beauty)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

One of Suzukis most intellectual yet perplexing films. Violence Elegy could be somewhere between Porky's and Zero For Conduct. It follows the delinquent exploits of Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi) as he rebelliously claws his way through high school hell in Okayama in 1935. In its implosion brought about by relished violence and politicised epiphanies, the viewer is left sifting through the causal action represented and how it relates to a national psyche. It must be remembered, though, that Violence Elegy is part of both a time and a culture that rarely shied away from intensely depicting the brute force with which Japanese society brought the individual into line.

Many Films from Japan's turbulent 60s' cinema history have floated beyond our reach in the West—something for which the weak-at-heart should be thankful. Yet no matter how gratuitous the pummelling and pugilism seems in Violence Elegy, it sensationally captures the pent-up frustration that links sex to violence in young males. Where else but in Japanese cinema would you have so many references to erections and masturbation without resorting to bawdy jokery?

Humour is ever present in this most ironic of Suzuki's films, but be prepared for its displacement and dramatically asynchronous discharge. Likewise, note the quietly chilling ending and how it positions the right-wing radical nationalist Kita Ikki as the spiritual embodiment of youthful anger and its potential channelling into purposeful action.

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