As I sift through the backlog of films that I was given the opportunity to see at the 2013 Annual Raindance Film Festival, a drama hailing from Japan comes to mind.
The Kirishima Thing is an adaptation of a book of the same name (by Asai Ryo), directed by Daihachi Yoshida and set in the small universe of a Japanese high school .
Variety magazine pointed out that it was like a far removed less colourful version of ‘Clueless’, in which a social hierarchy is brazenly established by the doe eyed blonde beauty, Cher. The similarities end there; what it means to be a teenager in eastern Asian culture is very different from the issues explored and portrayed in Sixteen Candles or Mean Girls.
In this particular isolated world, a guy called Kirishima is King – he’s also never seen throughout the whole film but a large part of the movie is spent talking about his absence. The ‘thing’ about Kirishima is nothing about him at all – it’s about those he’s left behind, and when that ‘thing’ is removed, everything falls into an entertaining display of disarray. Though it’s not chaotic, it’s a deep-rooted under-played domino effect, as told predominantly from the perspectives of five students – all of them ironically leaders of their own social groups.
Risa the queen bee finds herself on the precipice of being dethroned without her popular boyfriend; Maeda the geek with a passion for b-movie horrors decides it’s time to make his mark creating the film he’s wanted… on school grounds; Hiroki, Kirishima’s second in command best friend (and as the film would have us believe a more talented young man) finds himself at a loss with no one to follow and brooding over his wasted talent in favour of being cool. Then there are the ones who sit on the fence, afraid of being persecuted for their true wants and likes who suddenly find themselves thrust into centre stage scrambling to find a new foothold in the crumbling social hill. Sawashima, a band leader who is in love with Hiroki plays on the roof to steal glances at him; while the rest of Risa’s female clan, struggle to express their desires for fear of being marginalised.
Throughout the film the groups lives interweave, forcing them into contact with each other at opportune moments that will perhaps shape them forever. The climax of the film comes at the end of the long day when one student reports to seeing Kirishima on school grounds. A chase ensues and all groups, barring Sawashima (her school orchestra duties provide the excellent soundtrack for the climactic scene) find themselves on the rooftop and, amusingly, part of Maeda’s b-movie horror.
It’s a solid and interesting take on a formula hashed out almost every year with an impressive young ensemble cast and beautiful cinematography that concludes in one of the best and original endings I’ve seen in a film ever.
I was lucky enough to shake director Daihachi Yoshida’s hand and sing happy birthday to him at the screening – not only had he turned 50 but the previous night he had been honoured with the Japanese Oscar equivalent of Best Director and best film accolade the previous evening.
Official Raindance Film Festival 2013 selection:
images sourced from: