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Japan, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Regional Features)

Director: Hiroshi Shimizu

A group of Japanese hire a tour bus with one intention: communal suicide. Everyone on this fatal trip, including the driver and perky female guide, has financial or per­sonal woes that have led them to take desperate mea­sures.

The debut feature by Takeshi Kitano protege Hiroshi Shimizu indicates that he has learned his lessons well from his mentor. A stylised, existential road movie imbued with black comedy, Ikinai recalls Ihe tranquil moments ol Takeshi's Sonaline and Hana-Bi, moments that are haunted by tragedy.

The death wishers' doomed route will take in a number of notorious accident blackspots and life insur­ance will see to the monetary difficulties of their surviv­ing loved ones. All seems planned to the last detail but things commence to unravel when the charming but oblivious Mitsuki joins what she imagines is a pleasant three-day outing using her uncle's ticket.

Darkly satirical, Ikinai, in common with a number of contemporary Japanese features, is highly critical of conformity and inflexible social mores. Mitsuki's vibrant presence on the bus gives some of the passengers pause to reconsider their situation and decisions must be made if the group are to maintain solidarity in their lethal pact. But who will stop the bus?

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