Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2012What do you do if you’re an avant-garde filmmaker—an underground legend—struggling for widespread recognition? Well, one thing probably best not to do is change your name after 30 years in the biz. But that’s exactly what the ex-Sogo, now Gakuryu Ishii has done.
Ishii is one of Quentin Tarantino’s stated influences and one can see similarities in their inventive staging of action scenes and creative approaches to story telling. A progenitor of the Japanese cyberpunk and hardcore scenes, Ishii gained his street cred with ½ Man (1986), a visual documentary on the experimental noise band Einsturzende Neubaten, as well as numerous mutant and punk related flicks. His breakthrough work was Angel Dust (1995), about a psychologist trying to catch a serial killer, but he was still never able to attain mainstream success.
The present film, based on a play by the brilliant theater director Shiro Maeda, mixes many of Ishii’s lifelong themes. A university sees a mysterious illness grip everyone on campus and people drop like flies. As the corpses pile up so does the farce, but Ishii manages to layer a real sense of dread within the absurdity. While the end-of-the-world story may not go anywhere, the atmosphere is enough to carry this trademark Ishii piece.