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Kujo's (Ryuhei Matsuda) high school has the look of an abandoned building more than a place of learning. Some rooms are empty, cluttered with debris, and graffiti decorates the walls. The school has a hierarchy which is determined through a near fatal game involving standing on the roof and seeing who can fall backward and clap the most before grabbing the railing. When he hangs in for a record number of seven claps, Kujo becomes the schools resident leader. His best friend, the meek Aoki, is happy to be among the schools higher ranks, whereas Kujo approaches it with the same nonchalance he invests in everything. After Aoki is attacked by a trio of lower class kids, Kujo and the gang flex some muscle. However, Kujo is too laid back in his seat of power, and soon it has Aoki itching to take over. Tired of being in the shadows and anxious to use the power Kujo shrugs off, Aoki makes his move to take over the school and revels in enforcing power and being the bully Kujo doesnt care to become.
The symbolism is clear. Set almost entirely within the school and the school grounds, the building appears almost like a prison. Unlike a prison, there is a lack of any authority figures. The only adults we see are an ineffectual teacher, a midget gardener- yes, you read that right, a midget gardener, something every film could benefit from- and the yakuza who circle the confines of the school looking for fresh recruits. Instead, the school is a prison of their own empty future, a dead end road of no possibilities for their life beyond graduation.
The film has glances of a few other students, getting a sense of their dim futures. There is Ghost, a student who sleeps all day and gets away with it because he is rumored to have a terminal disease. A student with a promising baseball playing career who flirts with becoming a gangster. In the films grimmest scene, a kid named Yukio just seems to snap and attacks another student with very messy results.
Lead Ryuhei Matsuda is best known for his role as the enigmatic, questionably gendered, object of obsession in Gohatto. Here he has a similar role, this quiet, somewhat mysterious character the film hinges upon. Maybe it is just his physicality, but he has the same pale skin and feminine features that made him so memorable in Gohatto, only his character in Blue Spring is much more the grunge slacker teen.
Director Toshiaki Toyoda crafts a film that is thin on script and heavy on mood. He wasn't out to make a talky feature to examine the alienated and directionless teen, he lets the visuals convey that mood. The film has some very striking imagry that should stay with you for days, most notably the finale where one character stands on the roof and, over the course of a single shot, an entire night flashes by and dawn rises.
The DVD: Artsmagic
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The films bleak outlook is heavily reflected in the visuals, which are muted tones overwhelmed by grey. Contrast is very deep and the sharpness is fair. Unfortunately, the film has some edge enhancement and shimmering which makes it a less than perfect affair.
Sound: Dolby 2.0 Stereo. Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Audio is good with fair separation. Dialogue is nice and clear. The music score, while mixed nice and heavy, is a bit glaring. The score consists of some very overt distorted guitar chord riffs which sounded like a Japanese version of The Pixies.
Extras: Bio/Filmographies— Artwork— Director Interviews. Interview 1, which concerns Blue Spring is 8:11. Interview 2 which concerns his film Pornostar is 7:48.— Commentary by author Tom Mes.
Conclusion: Those interested in modern Japanese cinema will find a nice little film and a powerful mood piece that has the subtlety of splash of hot coffee in the face. The transfer is okay, making the investment of a purchase or a rental worthwhile for movie fans.