Film: Suicide Club
UK Release date: 19th September 2011
UK Distributor: Cine Du Monde
Running Time: 99 mins
Director: Shion Sono
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Masatoshi Nagase, Mai Hosho, Tamao Sato, Takashi Nomura
Reviewer: Daryl Wing
Controversial Japanese filmmaker Shion Sono’s first major commercial hit was a movie he wrote, directed and shot in a record time of two weeks (assembled in four) called Suicide Circle, a disturbing thriller about Japan's incredibly high suicide rate. A hit in Japan, it was also played in many film festivals, where it was retitled Suicide Club, and won the Groundbreaker Award and the Most Groundbreaking Film jury prize at the Fant-Asia Film Festival. Ten years on, the UK finally gets a release this September courtesy of Cine Du Monde.
54 high school girls throw themselves in front of a subway train in some kind of bizarre pact, but this appears to be only the beginning of a string of suicides around the country, all involving school children.
With questions raised over the involvement of an up and coming all-girl pop group called Dessert, Detective Kuroda (Ryo Ishibashi) desperately tries to find the answer, which isn’t as simple as one could hope…
He said: I hope you’re sitting comfortably. Suicide Club is certainly one strange ride. The plot synopsis doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the film’s brutal opening hour, followed by the surreal nature of a final third that offers few concrete answers, but hints at a number of reasons why the children of Japan prefer the former to the latter.
She said: Suicide Club can best be described as a relentless stream of arresting imagery, backed by light-hearted musical numbers and jovial dance routines. One such moment captures the mood brilliantly; as a catchy tune rings out to the sight of overdose attempts, group hangings and culinary disasters. Just when you think Sono has reached the peak of his prowess, he takes his film down a completely different path.
He said: Sono’s direction is pretty faultless. He gets some excellent performances from a cast consisting of mainly friends and more recognizable players in the outstanding Ishibashi and Rolly Teranishi that intensify the disturbing realism of a premise not as warped or as shocking at is was ten years ago. The grainy visuals add to the charm.
She said: For a short period of time, Suicide Club finds itself in similar territory to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, where potential suicide is put aside in favour of sadistic torture and homicidal tendencies. It’s an unexpected change of direction - one that comes with delirious rock-opera trimmings - but Sono continues to shock and surprise like its going out of fashion.
He said: The first mass suicide is easily one of the most interesting introductions ever witnessed on film, and as shocking as you could possibly hope for.
She said: The denouement doesn’t always convince, and a few lingering plot holes serve only to frustrate. In 2006, Sono attempted to plug these holes with sequel-come-prequel Noriko’s Dinner Table. The follow up depicts events that take place before and after the incidents of Suicide Club. Sono went on to say that he had originally envisaged a trilogy, but in reality the chance of making three feature films was slim.
He said: The over-egged ‘Mail Me’ track by pop-group Dessert wears a bit thin, but Sono produces a scene that almost rivals the intro when the Suicide Club’s ‘founding members’ make a stand (or not) and playfully tease each other on a rooftop, daring the next in line to take the plunge.
She said: With so many characters coming and going, it’s hard to pick out a standout performance. Musician turned actor Rolly Teranishi makes an immediate and lasting impression as celebrity-in-waiting Genesis, but in hindsight that might have something to do with his sudden and unexpected appearance.
He said: Whether the rash of suicides are an accident or a crime is ultimately pointless (by the end you won’t give a damn), but after another outstanding scene, the mum-can-I-have-some-chocolate-montage, Sono’s flick becomes more filler than killer.
She said: There’s a lot going on in Suicide Club, and ideas bombard the screen left, right and centre. Themes are explored and then dropped - often in favour of gory mayhem and J-pop dance routines - leaving the underlying message somewhat confused. His ability to shock was never in question though, a statement made clear by the opening stampede.
He said: Still, if you’re going to throw a load of chicks and children in raincoats into the mix, you may as well do it during this film - right at the end would help – at least the outrageous scene takes the attention away from Dessert’s truly awful song, which we’re treated to in its entirety as we sit there, wide-eyed and clueless while the credits roll.
She said: Suicide fads, subliminal messages and social commentary provide Sono with another opportunity to enthral the masses. Suicide Club touches on current themes and fears, but Sono’s film will best be remembered for its harrowing tone, twisted humour and startling set pieces - washed down with a catchy pop number or two. Flawed yet fearless, Suicide Club will forever remain a sign of things to come from an unmistakable talent.
He said: Suicide Club amazes from the outset, and grips with a drip-feed of gory shocks and intrigue you pray will provide some kind of answer, eventually. Or maybe not. Its audacious finale is just as fascinating, if not as satisfying, but mass suicide, baby chickens and annoying Japanese pop stars should keep you sat firmly in your seat rather than anywhere else far more sinister.