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Kichiku: Dai Enkai (2pc) (Dol)

Artsmagic DVD // Unrated // September 28, 2004
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted September 11, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts (1997) is a Japanese student film by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri that took two years to complete. The film tells the tale of a radical, fringe political group that descends into madness.

The unnamed groups charismatic leader, Aizawa, is in prison. He has befriended a young man named Fujiwara, who is just getting released, and instructs Fujiwara to inform his followers that Aizawa's girlfriend, Masmi, is to be the default leader of the group. They are a young group of radicals, their demeanor seems to imply that they are loners, and their number is a tight knit group of six living in a derelict building on the outskirts of the city.

Masami instigates the group to do some robberies. When her position or ideas are questioned, she merely uses sex to manipulate the situation. The group is rattled and begins their spiral into insanity when they learn of Aizawa's suicide. The group becomes like a beheaded body that refuses to die, directionless but intent to keep on stumbling. The group begins to turn on itself, resulting in murder and depraved carnage.

Kichiku found its initial inspiration from the Asama Sanso incident in 1972 when groups of the Japanese Red Army sieged a mountain lodge and took the owners wife hostage. Though, that true incident had a much tamer ending than the gore -soaked finale of Kichiku. I'm currently reading a book by Haruki Murakami called "Underground", which is a series of interviews with both survivors and the instigators of the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult. Therefore, more than usual, my frame of mind was really ready for this film and an examination of this particular kind of madness, the communal variety. Probably one of the most fascinating things about "Underground" is the cultists who released the gas did it despite their doubts because they were following the groups orders- you don't question orders. In the same way, many of those affected by the gas, didn't panic or seek treatment at first, because they were businesspeople commuting to work- and short of death, nothing will keep a well-raised Japanese from work. So, in a strange way, the two share the same follow the pack syndrome.

If you are like me, when looking at this title, the first thing question you ask yourself is, "Why does a small scale, limited release, student film I've never heard of get a two-disc special edition DVD release?" Well, after watching the film, I'm still not sure. The films finale does shock and is extremely gruesome, but the rest of it fell a little flat and I never felt any emotive impact from the story or performaces. It isn't exactly bad, but it is amateurish and ultimately not a great revelation, which makes me wonder why it was blessed with such attention. I guess it is just one of those lucky mergers of a cheap acquisition and ease to get extra material, so why the hell not?

Somewhere amongst my many geeky readings about film making, I still half recall a quote about student film directors, which was- they often either do way too much or far too little. In other words you either had guys going for too much who over direct and were unable to realize they didn't need to edit every angle they shot into the film, or guys who did too little and everything was a long Stranger than Paradiseish master shots. Kazuyoshi Kumakiri falls into the former, there seems to be a lot of unrevealing filler, a penchant for wonky angles, and some spots where dirtier, rougher shots could have been left on the cutting room floor without harming the film. But, to be fair, this is a guy learning the ropes. So, yes, forgiveness all around. It is a student film, so make sure to temper my complaints with the knowledge that this was a personal project from a fledgling film maker trying to learn the basic process.

The film is divided into three sections and development of the characters is pretty spare. Masami obviously stands out, as does duo of shy geek Sugihara and Kumayaga. Then there is Fujiwara, the quiet outsider who blends in a little too well with the madness. I didn't recall the other two guys names, but one of them had facial hair reminiscent of those Mexican werewolf acrobat brothers. The groups ideology is never discussed, which was a shame since it might help shed light on their bond. Initially, the film plays out pretty slow, with some casual scenes of the group and the shifting dynamics, then things take the gory turn. I pretty certian that the gore is really what got this film any attention. Without the shotgunned heads, castration, and lingering close-ups, there wouldn't be too much to say about the film since it plays out with such little depth in the character department.

The DVD: Artsmagic

Picture: Standard Full-screen. Well, for a shot on 16mm student film, it looks like a shot on 16mm student film. Ugly, cheap looking title cards. Some rough, badly shot bits here and there. Muted color. And grain. Grain, grain, grain grain grain. Yeah, its got some grain, but this ain't no Bruckheimer production, so the transfer cannot be faulted. So, in the areas of sharpness, grain, color, and contrast, it is pretty much what you'd expect for a rough student film. Technically it has some edge enhancement and shimmer in some scenes.

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Japanese language with optional English subtitles. At the risk of running it into the ground- it is a student film, so don't expect too much. You can tell there are lots of vocal bits that had to be looped in because they were either not recorded or badly recorded. Music and fx noise are fairly minimal and adequately presented. Decent presentation of less than top notch audio.

Extras: Disc two features all of the extras, which offer a wealth of info about the film.— Bio/Filmographies— "Making of" Featurette (29:53)— "Reaction to" Featurette (8:17)— Interviews: Author Tom Mes (21:00), Kichiku Director (30:26), Cameraman (17:08), and Actors (37:08).--- Original Trailer.

Conclusion: Kudos to any film that was made because the makers took odd jobs, including drug testing, in order to get it completed. The result is a bit amateurish, shocking because of its gore, but exploitation fans might find themselves yawning in the first half. If you are a fringe film fan or a real DIY indie geek, this two-disc edition will definitely be worth a look.

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