Japanese Jidai Geki film
PARTY 7 (2000) is an over-the-top comedy written and directed by Katsuhito Ishii, the man responsible for the anime sequence in Tarantino's Kill Bill. Ishii has put together a group of talented performers for his first full length feature film. I'm not exactly sure as to why it took 8 years for this film to be released on U.S. dvd, maybe because of its very "cultist" nature. But one thing I can say (I saw the Japanese release long ago); for a first time director, Ishii's talent shines through in his first full-length outing. "Party 7" is an exceptional blend of Tarantino deconstructions, over-the-top black humor, outrageously odd characters with an excellent script to close it up.
Synopsis partly derived from the back cover:
Yakuza flunkie Miki (Masatoshi Nagase) checks into the remote "Hotel New Mexico" to hide out after stealing a suitcase of Yakuza money. Not long after, Miki's old girlfriend Kana (Akemi Kobayashi, the hottie on the dvd cover) shows up to collect on an old debt, but are soon followed by her current "boyfriend"(?), Todohira and Miki's elder gang brother Sonoda, who's trying to recover the stolen gang money. Meanwhile, shy peeping tom Okita (Tadanobu Asano, Ichi the Killer) hides out in a secret room built by the enigmatic "Captain Banana" (Yoshio Harada), who are both watching the proceedings with voyeuristic interests. Finally, hot on Miki's and Sonoda's trail is oddball assassin Wakagashira, who has a strange obsession with plastic model kits! Throw all these personalities together in one hotel room and it's a recipe for mistaken identities, sexy comedy and violence.
Ishii's film captures the spirit of Quentin Tarantino with comic book aesthetics bereft in twisted irony. The film is an unforgettable portrait of seven weirdoes entangled in a cycle of craziness that never stops. The opening animated sequence that gives us brief character backgrounds is very stylish and witty, it may well be worth the price of this dvd by itself. The entire movie is bound to have a huge cult following. Granted, this film may not be for everyone, but if you have a certain familiarity with Japanese films and their somewhat obscure comedies then this flick is tailor-made for you. The film exudes a lot of the "that's hella cool" attitude in its proceedings that takes place in an enclosed space.
The way the story is structured is quite ingenious as it doesn't give out too much details, and whatever detail it does reveal at that time, doesn't really make any sense. But slowly and humorously as the plot begins to unravel, then everything makes perfect sense; up to the last moment that the film has finished rolling the last of the end credits. "Party 7" is definitely focused on its direction and as to what it is trying to do, it may well be the epitome of what a cult film is; some folks will love it and some guys will be repulsed by the film. The outrageously weird but interesting characters are also backed by an amusing script that has a lot of dialogue (much like a Tarantino flick) and "quippy" one-liners that will make you laugh in a somewhat uncomfortable way. There is a lot of absurdity in the film that makes up for its lack of action sequences. There are cheap cameras, Armani knock-off suits, latex, a super-hot Japanese chick and Captain Banana, who may well be the most outrageous character I've come across.
The film's main strength lies in its "party" of unique characters that expresses their own depth and odd charisma just by taking a look at them. There isn't a lot in terms of character development and we don't really know that much about their past; but what really works for the film is its excellent storytelling and Ishii's close added details to their costumes and mannerism. For example; Sonoda is the boss's top enforcer, therefore he wears a supposedly expensive outfit and he exhibits an intimidating presence (for a time anyway), Kana exudes pure sex appeal (Akemi Kobayashi does it so well) and Okita is some sort of "in the closet pervert" so please pay extra attention to what kind of outfit he is wearing. All these factors come together so well that I had to take multiple viewings to catch each subtle attempt in humor. Try not to blink so you can see each clever attempt at oddball humor. Even though the proceedings have no spoon-fed details about each character, their appearance alone and the dialogue gives us a vast history about each one of them.
Director Katsushito Ishii mixes and blends a lot of spectacular styles in this film that includes comedy, oddball irony, sci-fi (?), loyalty and pride, whodunit and the usual stereotypical notions that men want sex and money, while girls are after $$, or in this case a lot of Yen. With its opening anime sequence, there is even a bit of "cyberpunk" style and fortunately the film is well-controlled by its director that it didn't suffer being overcooked and overdone. It goes in so many directions that it's a real wonder that it managed to put everything together with such credibility. The film does have some unanswered questions and if Ishii makes a sequel called "Party 8", I'm all in!
Ultimately, I really enjoyed this film. I do understand that the film is an acquired taste but it comes with a very high recommendation from me to all those who love Japanese cinema and even to those who aren't but are fans of just great filmmaking with our boy QT's sensational style.
After all with a character named "Captain Banana" and Akemi Kobayashi who provides the eye candy, how can this film miss?!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4+ Stars]
Note: Make sure you watch the film up until the end of the closing credits.
Akemi Kobayashi Rules!! (Check out the cover)
This review was originally posted in amazon.com
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