Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tag (orig. Riaru onigokko) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
AsianWiki listing (K. Jagernauth) review
The Hollywood Reporter (C. Tsui) review

Tag (orig. Riaru onigokko) [2015] [IMDb] [AW] (screenplay and directed by Sion Sono [IMDb] [AW], based on the novel [GR]*[WCat]*[Amzn]* by Yûsuke Yamada [ja.wikip]* [GR] [Amzn] [IMDb] [AW]) is a Japanese "high school girl" splatter / horror film that played recently at the 2015 (51st Annual) Chicago International Film Festival.

Teenage Matsuko (played by Reina Triendl [IMDb] [AW]) thinks that she's heading with her classmates on a bus trip.  Perhaps just-a-little-bit nerdier than her classmates, she's writing some sort of a poem / haiku her little journal, when one of her classmates, teasing her, knocks it to the floor.  As bends down to reach for it, some sort of a giant invisible samurai with seemingly a giant invisible sword slices off the top third of bus, slicing-in-half every single one of the people on the bus, the bus driver, Matsuko's teachers, classmates, save Matsuko herself.  WT... happened? ;-)  Much ensues ;-)

What ensues, of course, is very strange.  As Matsuko, covered in the blood from her suddenly splattered classmates runs from the bus, she seems to be pursued by said giant monstrous invisible samurai.  But every time the invisible monster appears to reach her, she ducks and he just slices in half whatever bystanders seem to be around, who after a while, one starts to realize are ALWAYS women, usually teenage / otherwise quite young women.  Hmm...

She makes it back to her school after washing the blood off of herself in a creek and borrowing an apparently unsplattered uniform from one of the many teenage school girls who were decapitated or otherwise sliced in half by the invisible monster with his giant invisible samurai sword. 

However, when she comes to the school (of course, an all girls' school), she finds all her classmates there.  Weren't they just slashed in two a few minutes before??  But there they are, AND _they_ wonder why she's disheveled, all wet and so upset.  Again, WT ...?

They all arrive at school.  Since obviously Matsuko "has a story to tell", four of them, including Matsuko's BFF Aki (played by Yuki Sakurai [IMDb] [AW]) and the class "rebel" Jun (played by Maryjun Takahashi [IMDb] [AW]) decide to ditch first period to give Matsuko to tell her tale ... After hearing her story, Aki, as her BFF, is ever supportive but it is Jun who seems to understand: "The world is surreal.  If you want to change it, you have to do something unexpected, and then it will change."

Well when they come back to school after having ditched first period, all seems to go normally, until ... suddenly out of nowhere, the teachers (apparently resentful that the four teens ditched class) pull out gigantic machine guns and start shooting up the students.  Once more, WT ...?

Matsuko and her friends start running ... and they run into town.  There Matsuko runs into someone who she doesn't know _but who recognizes her_ as "Keiko" and the lead is now transferred to her (played by Mariko Shinoda [IMDb] [AW]).  It turns out that "getting married" ... and a whole new chapter in the story begins.

Then ... just as the wedding scenario is about to play-out ... Matsuko, er Keiko finds herself running away again, but now, suddenly she's in a runner's uniform, a number on her chest, in the middle of a race and being cheered by fans as "Isumo."  The lead role now seems transferred to her (played by Erina Mano [IMDb] [AW]).  One begins to understand why the film's name was tranlated to signify the children's game "Tag/"

Throughout it all, however, "Keiko" and "Isumo" flash back to being Matsuko, and Matsuko's friends Aki and Jun seem to be showing up as well.  Again, WHAT'S GOING ON??

Well, there's an explanation, and there's even an explanation of why ALL THREE SCENARIOS appear to be populated ENTIRELY by teenage girls and otherwise rather attractive young women. 

It's all QUITE "sophomoric" BUT _THAT_ appears to be part of "The Point" ...

Anyway, Matsuko appears to figure out a (quite Japanese) way to "Escape" these rather strange and often blood splattering scenarios ... coming to understand, in part, the advice of her "rebel friend" Jun.

Okay, ONE of the reviewers above wondered, no doubt _half jokingly_ WHY director Sion Sono [IMDb] [AW] films (5 this year) "never get submitted to Cannes" ;-) ;-).  Yet, I have to say that as "stupid" (and often, thankfully, PG-13 level SEXIST) as the movie was, it did "hold one's attention," and the _arguably_ the film's sexism was intentional and _intended as a protest_ against such sexism in Japan's pop culture.  I'M POSITIVE that many feminists both in Japan and here WOULD NOT BUY THIS (and I'd agree with the feminists).

But I don't want to condemn the movie completely because I was happy to this rather exuberant and unapologetic example of contemporary Japanese pop-culture.  And one could imagine that with a few obvious "edits" and a plot fix-or-two, a film like this could actually "pass muster" with the feminist community at least one that would want to engage with young people as well (because the "over the top splattering" in the film would probably fascinate young people of both sexes, as of course do zombies in the States).

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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