Tonight I watched a Japanese film called Survive Style 5+.Â It is another one I got from Amazon’s Vine programme.Â I actually got it last month but kept putting off watching: I never really felt in the right mood.Â Tonight I decided to give it a try and found it to be a remarkable film, funny and fascinating at the same time.The most recognisable faces in it are Tadanobu Asano ( who was the star of Ichi the Killer) and Vinne Jones (who once grabbes Paul Gascoine’s testicles during a football match) with a brilliant cameo from Kill Bill’s Sonny Chiba as a high-powered executive whose domestic life keeps interfering with his meeting.
I should give a spoiler alert here, but there really is no point.Â Knowing what is in the film really isn’t going to spoil anything by telling you what happens.Â I have seen the whole thing and have no idea what happens!
There is so much to like about this film and so many ideas in it: the man who keeps killing his wife only to return from burying her in the woods to find her back at home like some kind of attractive terminator, the salaryman who gets hypnotised into thinking he is a bird and gets stuck like that, the assassins’ agent who acts as interpreter for Vinnie Jones, the young burglars who look like they survived an explosion in the Play Away dressing-up box, the amazing sets for the houses, the well-chosen soundtrack music, the terrible, terrible adverts and ideas for adverts that Yoko, the advertising executive, keeps coming up with and the costumes – especially those worn by the frequently-killed wife.
Here is what I wrote about it on Amazon:
I could watch this film over and over again…
…and I still wouldn’t have an idea what it is all about, but in spite of that it is thoroughly enjoyable.
The most common comparision, also made on back of the case, is with Pulp Fiction and I think it is fair to assume the director has seen a few Tarantino films, but it also reminded me a bit of early David Fincher and Robert Rodriguez films where the director is not afraid to be unsubtle. Some directors aim to be invisible, so that you get wrapped up in the story, characters or atmosphere and don’t notice the direction, but this is a film where you find yourself admiring the camera tricks.
The structure is one with a number of different strands that keep intersecting in different ways. This means that there are lots of little cliffhanger moments as the story jumps to one of the other strands. As it approached the end I was half-expecting all the strands to come together and make sense and I was half right: they did come together but it didn’t make a lot more sense.
The look of the film is fantastic, with much of it on sets that make a pre-school children’s programme look dowdy. Even the dull salaryman lives in a house with an orange exterior and has things like unicycles laying around in the kids’ bedrooms.
On top of that the film sounds good too, with a soundtrack Tarantino himself would be proud of.
Best of all is the humour which comes in all forms. There is subtle humour, broad humour, visual humour and quirky humour. The scenes in the assassins’ office deserve repeat viewing to catch all the little touches. Everything in it is labelled. The chair has “please sit here” stencilled on it (in English), the safe has “safe” written on it, in fact I haven’t seen a set with so many labels on everything since the original TV show of Batman when the Batcave had similar labels.
Not much in the way of extras, although the ‘making of’ feature is mildly diverting.
The director seems to have not made another film since this came out in 2004, which is a shame because it is an audacious film which looks good and provides some genuine laughs.
Oh – did I mention that it is also a Christmas film – sort of?
I don’t know why this is only gettnig a release now, six years after it came out, or why the director has not (according to IMDb anyway) made another film since.Â Â The interesting thing about the age of it is that the huge changes in technology in just the last six years give it a sort of retro feel.Â Â The family are having a singalong to the in-car MiniDisc player, the advertising pitch is given on a VHS tape, and the chairman of the company takes his ;important’ call on a pre-DECT cordless phone the size of a brick.
Right now this film is only four quid on Amazon and is easily worth four pounds of anybody’s money for the costumes alone.