Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Typhoon Club - EIFF 2012 (Shinji Somai Retrospective)

Considered by many to be Somai's greatest film and it is easy to see why.

His themes, motifs and style are fully matured and the plot all combine to ensure that you are captivated from first frame to last.

The typhoon in question signifies the growing rage and dissatisfaction within the gang of teens who take shelter inside their school as the water that falls threatens to take on near Old Testament flood proportions.  The sheer volume of water that saturates the screen is reason enough to see this is awesome and awe inspiring.

Water is a recurring sign in the films of Somai...people fall into bodies of water for no real reason, both "Typhoon Club" and "PP Rider" open with shots of swimming pools, rivers flow by and here, obviously, rain falls.  For a Western audience water symbolizes death and rebirth and, at the risk of cultural ignorance, it is not difficult to imagine that Somai is saying something about exactly these things with his use of water.  Characters have difficult, challenging emotional and physical lives...the water offers the chance to wash oneself clean and emerge reborn.  Or maybe he just really liked soaking his actors.

What is most striking about "Typhoon Club" is the near constant movement of the a wild animal it seems to constantly be stalking both the teens and the space they inhabit.  It prowls, circles and closes in on the typhoon that threatens to wash everything away the camera is a force of nature.  The constant use of long shots and group shots ensures that we understand that Somai is rooted in the anamist belief system of Shinto.  Or maybe he just liked the way things looked.

These Somai films are interesting because they are very definitely modern and yet they share much in common with the work of earlier Japanese directors...for me, most obviously, Ozu.  The themes of the new clashing with the traditional and the worry over the youth of Japan and the encroaching influence of American culture are clear similarities.  Even though Somai favours a fluid, active use of camera and this is in direct conflict with the static, observational use of the camera favoured by Ozu there is also something very familiar about the way things look in Somais films.

A film about teenagers challenging authority and a film about our place in the natural world...challenging, thought provoking and beautiful.  Somai deserves this retrospective and Edinburgh should be glad that we have played host to it.

1 comment:

  1. "circumstances" beyond my control prevented me frm getting over to see any of the Somai films, so Naturally I'm unable to make comparisons between his movies and those of other Japanese guys like Kurowsawa ond Ozu.
    How do you think he compares alongside those two Paul?