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Writer/Director Katsuya Matsumura's All Night Long trilogy is a very controversial film series in Japan. The first film, All Night Long was made in 1992 and has a simple but rather unusual premise as three young boys at their near twenties witness a repulsively mean spirited and violent stabbing murder of one innocent Japanese girl, after which the three become friends and experience another savage act of brutality, by man to another man, which starts the hellish ride of revenge and the victims turning into beasts themselves. This theme is a very usual and great in Japanese cinema, how humans are animals deep inside but rarely has the imagery been so explicit and overall view of life so pessimistic, but still realistic.
The film has one pure character which is a positive thing and also required in order to make the piece even more effective and larger. There must be hope for a better tomorrow, otherwise there's no reason to go on and even make films like this in the world. But the way how the only gleam of light ends up in Matsumura's world is so violent and evil that his look on life must be a very ugly one. Maybe it is better to die off as soon as possible as we are only surrounded by wickedness and selfish beasts hiding under their "civilized" surface? Fortunately it is not quite so and the fight must go on in order to keep the bad and rotten sides of humanity not active and off the background, and so that one character should have ended up some other way, or then the film would have needed another one of her kind.
There are also some scenes that may seem a little too long and boring so some cuts to the most unnecessary parts should have been made, especially near the ending. The ending includes also some stupid over-acting that doesn't work in this drama and the "wimpiest" of the three is not just too convincing anymore. Otherwise the characters are quite well written and thus interesting. They just turn from "good" and promising young boys into violent and avenging beasts that can only kill (each) others until the eventual death. This development of their characters is not jumpy or unrealistic (the mentioned over-acting and noisy nonsense at the end excluded), everything that happens inside them looks natural and the more we dare to admit these sides inside ourselves, the more natural and horrible it looks in this film, too.
There are some great lines that underline the themes of the film. According to Matsumura, people are not born equal into this world and people are just animals, a theme that was already mentioned above. Nobody can say these very pessimistic and nihilistic lines are not true or from this very own world of ours. In this film, there are "stronger" and "weaker", but they all end up pretty much the same way as they're all animals and brutes, too. The "strong" may think they can sadistically torment, make fun of and exploit the "weak" but the latter share the same instincts that can suddenly burst out when the situation's right. It requires a lot to fight against it and not let them become active. Almost nobody in this film manages to do so, and so films like these are there to show the real world how things are not supposed to be and how it can be prevented and achieved. The images and scenes just have to be interpreted and seen through, no matter how hard they can be and are.
The film is indeed rather hard to take especially if one has not experienced these, both mentally and physically ultra-strong cinematic rides of pessimism and merciless. The murder at the beginning is a very graphic and horrific one with blood stains on the camera lens and blood flying with infernal sadness, and the ending, perhaps even more (mentally) disturbing is not any delight to the eye, too, but is there to give thoughts for our minds, for example, about the mindlessness behind the morality of revenge. Still the film is not exploitation even though the point of the beginning could have been achieved with a less bloodshed, too. But the ending is at least an example how violence can disturb when everything is not shown on screen, and also the greatest thing in Japanese cinema in general, the silence and lack of (useless) dialogue is present in All Night Long very powerfully, throughout. Images can tell so much more powerfully than written words.
All Night Long is a rough ride of cinematic real life terror that can burst out and take place everywhere where humans live and inhabit. This kind of cinema will never be generally accepted or known and also the "horror audience" that mostly watches these is not very often capable to see through the gore and other reasons they are interested in these in the first place. But films like All Night Long are more and they offer the more the more the viewer is capable to see, understand and admit. Humans just are not as great as they wished they were. 8/10
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