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|Index||11 reviews in total|
I read a review of "Blue Spring" on a movie festival page, and thought it
sounded interesting at the very least. I purchased it blindly, hoping it
would live up to some of the rave reviews it received. Not only did it
up to it's billing, it replaced Takeshi Kitano's "Fireworks (Hana-bi)" as
all-time favorite movie.
From the opening scene we get the feeling that this is not your normal highschool and these are not your normal students. However, the students face problems that are extremely similar to the problems we have all had. However, we come to realize that the setting and the characters are not that different and that the story is in fact believable. This above all else is the reason why "Blue Spring" touched me so much.
The main character Kujo wins a game of "Clapping" and becames the boss of a gang at an all-boy high school. The idea of the game is to clap as many times hanging from a roof-top fence without falling to your death. At first he finds his role mildly amusing as he deals out punishment to anyone who disrespects him or his best friend Aoki. Eventually, as with everything, he grows tired of his role and begins to lose his control of the school.
Aoki is dependent on Kujo. He needs Kujo to tell him what to do, how to act. But when Kujo alienates Aoki, it sends him into a tail-spin of destruction.
The other members of the gang hit were very easy to identify with. One member devoted his entire childhood to chasing the dream of taking the baseball team to Nationals. However, when he blows their chance on the final pitch of a game, he can't get past it and is unable to move on with his life. What makes this even more difficult for us to watch is the fact that he is a tutor of sorts to a freshman student who is beginning to take the game too far and is seemingly destined to live out the same fate.
Another student has no absolutely no direction. No clue as to what he wants to do. As the time for him to decide begins to run out the pressure becomes to much for him and he commits an unbelievable act. Perhaps my favorite character in the entire film.
Other kids include many who are controlled by the whims of the leaders, some who genuinely want to get out of there and go to school and one who is cruely called "Ghost" (even by teachers) because he has a terminal illness.
The direction is simply amazing. Toshiaki Toyoda always manages to find the right angle. Some scenes are absolutely beautiful. One example is when a character waits on the rooftop after school lets out and the camera fast-forwards through the entire night and into the morning as he waits for the next day to begin. Another is when Ghost is seen running away from school, as other students contemplate his motivation. Yet another example is one student's penchant for coloring things black and there is a quick shot of him standing atop the school, which has been seemingly been painted black over night, only to have a another cut back to reality shows the school is still white leaving the viewer thinking "Did I just see that?"
Dramatic moments are intercut with shots of the beautiful cherry trees that border the school (one character takes care of them with extreme devotion), blooming flowers, clouded skylines ect. Even in moments of extreme violence or desperation we are never allowed to forget that this is a beautiful film. The soundtrack is simply one the best I've ever heard. The Japanese punk-rock fits in perfectly as it pounds our ears during slow-motion shots and equally well with chases through the school and acts of violence.
The ending of the film is unforgettable. It's one of those endings that - when the credits roll - you're just left staring and wishing it didn't end, but you know it couldn't have ended any other way. I've never given a film a 10/10 before but I whole-heartedly believe this film deserves it. It's not particularly easy to watch but it's undeniably moving and powerful.
If one pays scant attention to the news in Japan, seen Iwai Shunji's
_All About Lily Chou Chou_, or read short stories and novels by
Murakami Ryu, one knows that Japan, like other countries, suffers from
an escalation of violence in schools. This violence works in three
ways: student vs. teacher, teacher vs. student, and, the most common,
student vs. student. Although it is still rare, the newspapers and news
programs are peppered with stories of bullies beating someone to death
or the bullied killing his bullies. Murakami Ryu and Yu Miri have both
focused on these subjects in their literary works. Toyoda Toshiaki,
through his film _Blue Spring_ also touches on this controversial
The kids attending the all boys Asahi High School would basically be considered the dregs of Japanese society. The school is rundown and the teachers teach such a drypan, apathetic manner that it is not surprising that the kids could care less. The only teacher who seems to actually care about any of his students is a dwarf who waters the flowers on the school grounds all day.
However, although the teaching might be unstructured, there is a rigid code of hierarchy enforced by the tough kids. A leader is chosen by a suicidal ritual in which a student claps his hands as many times as possible while falling backwards. After he claps a certain amount of times, he grabs the guardrail. Miss the guardrail, instant pancake.
At the beginning of this film, after the "graduation" of the senior class, Kujo, played by the extraordinarily handsome Matsuda Ryuhei, wins the contest. Kujo is a bit indifferent to his new found power, but goes along with it because he has the support of his friends: Aoki, Yukio, Yoshimura, and Kimura.
Although many of the students are not satisfied with the way their lives are shaping, they seem to basically concede that good jobs and college are not in their future and that they are either on the track to become either a menial laborer or a member of the Yakuza.
_Blue Spring_ is an interesting film that depicts individuals who are not on the "normal road of becoming a good Japanese citizen": i.e. Graduation, work, stable family. It shows the dregs, but the dregs also show that social hierarchy exists from the lowest to the highest.
I think that the film is quite well done. The filming is dark, but it fits the atmosphere of the film. The soundtrack is excellent.
With a Soundtrack from 'Thee Michelle Gun Elephant' that most English
Indie Producers would kill for, and amazing cast and crew. Aoi Haru
draws us into the lives of Japanese teenagers who aren't so lucky in
life, who have to make their own destiny from the left over scraps of
others who happen to throw them their way.
Aoi Haru is based in a public all boys school called Asahi High.
A extremely miserable place where teachers don't bother to encourage the boys to excel, gang graffiti tags are everywhere marking their turf, and the yakuza's frequently hang around outside the school trying to recruit young members.
The boys learn early on that if you don't fight for what is yours and what you want, then you better keep your mouth shut and stay out of the way. And even though these boys do act tough and dish out violence like a ice cube down the back of your shirt, the boys feel lost and confused due to the fact they cannot understand why they can not make their dreams come true. Almost feeling forced into the violence and self destruction they create because it will be their only real legacy they can leave behind before they enter the real world and pretty much dead end lives.
On the 25th Graduation ceremony at Asahi High a group of the new seniors head up to the Schools roof for a deadly tradition held by the boys who wish to rule the school. A initiation that involves the boys hanging off the side of the building and seeing how many claps they can do before they give up or just fall to their death when they can't grab the rail in time.
And this time Kujo wins the leadership, which does confuse the other boys abit because he is quiet and constantly deep in thought about things but accept it because he won fair and square.
Even though Kujo does seem to be harmless and gentle, when it comes down to it he can be the most violent member of his gang. Though Kujo is the leader of the gang and his Best friend Aoki adores him deeply, Kujo doesn't really want to change anything. He doesn't want to rip the school apart with violence unless he has to. He just feels lost about not knowing what the future holds and what is beyond High School, and constantly asks his friends what they will do after High School because he secretly doesn't know what to do himself. Which annoys Aoki greatly, because he has all of the power and he doesn't want to do anything with it. With this Aoki decides to break off and turn Asahi High into a living hell for everyone who is unlucky enough to get in his way, which in turn rips these Childhood friends apart.
But can they fix their friendship before it's too late?
In the end this Movie really is for all the Gofers, Wanna-bes, Dreamers and lost souls out there. Because everyone can relate to at least one of these characters in Aoi Haru
I think it captured the high school feeling of despair better than any
other movie. The high school movies I am used to usually transform
everything into a battle between characters where in the end the good
guy wins. Or maybe he loses. But what if you don't want a battle? What
if you just don't know what to do or you just don't care?
In Aoi Haru a deadly game decides who the leader of the school will be. A lonely quiet guy wins the game, but he does it only because he doesn't care enough to fear for his life. He actually does it for the game, not for the leadership. That annoys the hell out of his friend, ex boss himself, who can't understand someone that does not want to abuse his power. In the end their friendship is brutally ended.
There are some interesting metaphors in there, like the flowers that the boys are trying to grow, even if just one of them lives to see them blossom. It is also interesting that it is a boys only high school, maybe that's the norm in Japan, I don't know.
There is also in the movie the hidden message that neglect and inaction can do more damage than acting badly. I am talking here about the teachers in the film, that are just dictating machines with no will to educate or care. I mean, doctors can be accused of malpraxis. Lawyers, too. Yet teachers, who are supposed to create social beings from adolescents, are not held responsible for their mistakes.
Enough babble. This is a good film, maybe a bit long, but it does need almost every scene. The soundtrack is also very nice and fits the plot. It is worth watching.
The closing night movie for the SF Indie Fest is a vaguely coming of age
type drama, set entirely within the grounds of a Japanese boy's school.
Here, the kids all run around in gangs, sleep in lectures and fight at
times. Every wall in the place is covered in graffiti. Ryuhei Matsuda (the
effeminate guy from GOHATTO) stars as Kuja, a senior who becomes the
school's official gang leader by winning at "The Clapping Game". This game
involves the kids hanging from a railing on the edge of the school roof,
letting go and seeing how many times they can clap their hands before their
nerve fails and they grab back on.
From here we follow the progress of his friends and enemies throughout a part of the school year, the challenges to his leadership and the pressure of the school system felt by everyone. There's a hell of a lot of violence goes on in the school, and we get the impression that life as a Japanese school boy is a difficult dangerous business.
It's a pretty bleak and cheerless vision - between this and BATTLE ROYALE you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Japanese school system was on the point of explosion or collapse, with the youth as disaffected as they come. How close this is to reality I don't know, but the friend I saw it with tells me that the classroom scenes are pretty close to how it actually is.
The cast all perform well - Ryuhei Matsuda has such a striking appearance that he doesn't really need to do anything to create an impression, and indeed he spends most of the movie being aloof and impenetrable. This contrasts with the energies and frustrations evident in the other characters, particulary his best friend Aoki.
I enjoyed the movie a lot... good characters, and well filmed/scored, with interesting developments. It's based on a collection of autobiographical short stories from a manga artist, which shows a little bit in the episodic nature of the plot, but it's all weaved together well for the movie. Worth looking out for if you don't mind your high school movies nihilistic, violent and bleak.
I watched this film for the first time a few nights ago, and it was still in my mind as i took my hour's long morning walk to work.it was still not enough time to properly reflect on what i'd just watched. it really touched me deep, it effected me as much as Battle Royale. even though i couldn't get subtitles on my computer the story was easy to pick up and i didn't realise i wasn't reading them. if i could strongly recommend any film other than 'Battle Royale', 'All about Lily Chou-Chou' and 'moonlight jellyfish', it would most definitely be this one.its quite a powerful film. there's more to the story than just whats on the surface and we get to see some of our most lovable Japanese actors play totally new roles. one of which is the lovely 'Sosuke Takaoka' who plays the slightly psychotic 'Yukio', who gives 'Kazuo Kiriyama' a run for his psycho-status.even though he goes out too early he is the one who sticks strongly in my mind,he can change such a simple little tune into one that is quite haunting.all the characters add something special to the film.in my opinion its too short.i love long films and would have liked to get to know a little more of each character,especially 'Yoshimura' ('Shugo Oshinari') 'Yukio' ('Sosuke Takaoka') and 'Takashi Tsukamoto's' character.the violence is strong but none the less kept realistic and believable right up until the breath-holding end,which kind of pulls on the heart-strings but doesn't disappoint in the quality of the ending, only for the fact that we're left with feeling of sadness for 'Aoki', one of the main characters.this film ends in totally the right way to be true to the film.this film was done with pure excellence and is capable of showing beauty through the darkest of violence.many people forget what its like for young kids growing up and the situations, challenges and decisions they have to face. this film can really bring you back down with a truthful slam to the ground.this is one story that will stay firmly set in my mind for a very long time and one that should be acknowledged,all the actors really pull of this film with the highest quality.other than the above mentioned Japanese films, you really will be hard pushed to find such a powerful film to beat this one,you will not be disappointed, guaranteed. Lisa Sawyer(21)
I'm told the title Aoi Haru can be read two ways: "blue spring" or "teenage years". Anyway, I liked this movie. What I liked were the dark aspects of this movie and the attempts at symbolism. What I didn't like was the somewhat aimlessness of the plot and the attempts at symbolism. I find it a lot like "go" which also has Hirofumi Arai (Aoki). Both violent highschool movies. Some people have compared it to Battle Royale... although I think this has a better basis in reality. Someone mentioned this movie was strung together from several short manga stories, which makes sense, since we tend to jump through several character's story lines. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we get to see where each character is coming from and where they end up. The variety is nice but it I felt like the movie lost it's focus at points. Overall, though, I felt it draws the viewer in and manages to stay kinetic throughout. There was rarely a boring moment. Even a girl waiting for her boyfriend ended up being very amusing. The movie is rather violent and disturbing at points, but managed to still be funny and introspective. I'd probably recommend it to people who can still remember what highschool was like.
'Aoi Haru' is a very bleak movie that derives its beauty precisely from
the haunting sense of nihilism. The almost ruined school with its dingy
rooms and dense graffiti is not just the set to the action, it seems to
represent the characters' lack of prospects. A movie that makes
something of a pun on the word 'adolescence' (together the kanji for
'ao' and 'haru' read as 'adolescence') cannot help but make
considerations about the future but these are without a doubt not
promising. The school-ground is a yakuza recruiting ground in the most
literal of ways and the initiation into gangs is not so much a
temporary revolt from troubled teens as it is a preparation for a life
of crime. Dreams are hinted at only to be thoroughly dashed. Violence
runs rampant but is handled soberly by a camera that know just how much
to show to elicit a reaction.
It is against this background that the main story unfolds: a friendship between two boys gone wrong. Matsuda (Kujo) gives a stunning performance, his cool demeanor matches sociopathic tendencies very well and make him believable as a ruthless and detached young man with little interest even in his own life. The clapping game will have anyone hold their breath and is shot in such a way as to make it even more disturbing. Arai (Hirofumi) is also very competent as the bosom body whose fall out seals his descent into darkness.
A strong soundtrack adds to the impression of things going wrong in an artistic way. Juvenile delinquents or not the human aspect of boys in a sticky situation provides reasons for the viewer to see past the almost intrinsic seediness of it all. Ryuhei cutting Araki's hair as they discuss what to do when they grow up is surprisingly moving and the climax of the movie brings it all home in a painful but excellent way. Apart from these two leads there are minor characters that are equally interesting such as the sickly boy fascinated with worms (that despite being so peaceful frightens Kujo because he has a purpose), a psychopath in the making, the boy that wants to go to Koshien. All people that are adrift without guidelines.
Grownups are not absent but they appear sparingly and only the little person teacher that teaches the boys how to water flowers is a positive influence. The focus is strongly placed on the young actors and they truly do shine.
'Aoi Haru' is realistic despite being a very artistic movie. It should be seen back to back to Miike's 'Crows Zero' that is a take of the same concept in a much more fanciful and less bleak way. But 'Aoi' is brilliant in its own right by adhering so steadily to an ethos of bleakness and loss. Growing is, without a doubt, not easy.
I really enjoyed watching this film despite all those scenes that
aren't every good to watch. You have to have a strong stomach to watch
this film because there are some very disturbing scenes in this film.
To me, I think its a movie about losers who can't forget about what
they really want in life. The ending was good and every emotional. The
film kind of reminds me of when I was in high school, choosing what I
want to accomplish in life. Plus, the music went along so well with the
movie, in fact I heard the songs played in the movie before I got my
hands on the film.
Overall, 7/10...there were some scenes that I just didn't enjoy watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was pretty excited about BLUE SPRING based on a few reviews that I'd
read comparing it to BATTLE ROYALE and LORD OF THE FLIES - well, this
film is neither. BLUE SPRING was to me, a confusing and relatively
pointless film, other than showing a bunch of angst-ridden Japanese
teenagers in a weird school where they pretty much run the show.
A gang leader is chosen amongst the students by participating in a potentially dangerous game called "clapping" - and Kujo is crowned the new leader of the senior class. His best pal Aoki is a slow-witted fellow who eventually gets tired of constantly playing second-fiddle to Kujo, and the two come to blows over it. There's a bunch of other random and pretty meaningless stuff that happens in between all this that never really amounts to anything...
From what I had read about BLUE SPRING before seeing it, I was hoping for either a violent social-statement ala BATTLE ROYALE, or perhaps an engaging tale of "lost youth". Unfortunately, it didn't deliver on either end. Stylistically, the film was good, but I was never engaged by the characters and couldn't care less about what happened to any of them. A few of the sub-plots were interesting, but were never expanded on enough to take anything meaningful from them. Overall, I found that the "parts" of BLUE SPRING never converged to form any sort of worthwhile "whole". Other reviewers seemed to have found something in this film that I didn't - personally I thought it was average at best, and would only recommend it to Japanese cinephile completists...5/10
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