Burst City

Burst City

Burst City

directed by Sogo Ishi

MVD Visuals

The screaming incoherence of early punk music found a nurturing home in Japan, the land of the rising sun, low-powered hot rods and disaffected teens. Part live concert, part trash cinema, this film is complexly devoid of plot, protagonist, or dramatic tension. But it does examine the nihilistic teen-age culture of 1980’s Japan. With out plot or judgment, we see a raw CBGB-style guitars, teen riots, drag racing, and Japanese women with a fashion sense that will for ever shame their offspring. There’s something about a nuclear reactor, but it passes quickly. The film is shot with what appears to be handheld cameras and the point of view is right on the edge of the camera getting smashed with a beer bottle or a head butt. We open with a punk band bouncing around the stage. Then the party spills out into the streets. Motorcycles roar past the camera, fights flare and resolve, women adjust their lip stick. It’s youth gone wild, just like James Dean showed us how.

Ishii’s filming style is low budget and almost guerrilla shooting. He looks for good visual images, and plot takes a backstage to spectacle and gratuitous voyeurism. We never become involved in the people on stage or in screen, yet they are as familiar to the viewer only as people passing by. But there is an organization to the imagery, and scenes flow in a unity that superseded conventional story telling. It’s a dream-like quality. Things happen and fade to something new without resolution or logic. A commentary track explains a few cultural points the the non-Japanese viewer might not catch. My overall experience was the same as that first time I saw Rocky Horror in a nearly empty theater at two in the morning: “What the hell was THAT?”

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