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Resurrection Trilogy
politic198320 October 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Making cinema to communicate a political statement can be a tricky business, with the time involved in getting the end film to an audience potentially making the it already irrelevant. Wong Kar-wai went to great lengths to ensure "Happy Together" was released before the time of the Hong Kong handover, but it is a lot of work to get there.

Toshiaki Toyoda's "Resurrection Trilogy" made from 2019 to 2021 is made up of three shorts all based on events happening at that time, and so the need to get them out quickly is key. Starting with an almost music video relating to a personal situation for Toyoda, the trilogy expands into the wider impact and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as nods to the Tokyo Olympics which hung over the city.

With music, particularly heavy guitar thrashes with a hint of the traditional, always a key part of Toyoda's films, the dialogue-less "Wolf's Calling" (2019) certainly relies on its soundtrack. A woman, clearing out some old possessions, discovers a gun from years gone by. Accompanied by an image of a wolf, this transports us to Mount Resurrection Wolf with numerous samurai, played by actors including Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Kengo Kora and Tadanobu Asano and the band Seppuku Pistols, climbing the stairs to the shrine where they congregate. Here, Shibukawa's samurai unveils the gun now in possession of the woman in the present day. Unleashing her samurai spirit, she grips the weapon as if to use it. To close, Ryuhei Matsuda in samurai attire struts out on the roof of a Tokyo building overlooking the new Olympic Stadium.

With Toyoda arrested in 2019 for possession of a non-working Second World War gun he inherited from his grandmother, the inspiration for the short is obvious; the arrest awaking a dormant anger in Toyoda. Toyoda's trademark slow-motion shots as guitars blare are used throughout as each samurai introduces themselves. It could be deemed a little unnecessary, but with the line-up and music with the right attitude, the old meets the new in what ends a stylish and clever extended music video to communicate Toyoda's inner-frustrations.

"The Day of Destruction" (2020) is the second, and most challenging, of the trilogy, being that it is more a scream of rage than a coherent comment on the COVID-19 pandemic, though perhaps that is the point.

Shinno (Ryuhei Matsuda) is granted permission to enter a cave where a monster has been uncovered. He is let in by local Teppei (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) who becomes the central character in the loose narrative. Years later, a pandemic has swept through the area, driving many to madness. A young man, Kenichi (MahiTo ThePeople), encases himself in a tomb to mummify himself at Mount Resurrection Wolf. Failing, he recovers with Teppei and Crescent Jiro (Issei Ogata), before unleashing his screams on Tokyo.

The longest of the three shorts, it is the most complex in that it is the one with the least clearly defined purpose, and perhaps requires an additional viewing. Abstract in its concepts, even with more of a script, it is less clear, but again allows for Toyoda to indulge in slow motion shots to its angry soundtrack calling out many elements of modern society, notably digital assistant technology, as people call to them as if in prayer.

Here, there is more of a general angst at the modern world, with digital technology and COVID-19 targets, but again closes on the Tokyo Olympic Stadium and how this has also contributed to the screams of those wanting to escape the madness.

What is clearer is the message behind the closing "Go Seppuku Yourselves" (2021), where wandering samurai Raikan (Yosuke Kubozuka) is ordered to commit seppuku at Mount Resurrection Wolf. Meeting it with acceptance, he insists on offering his final words in a monologue against the authorities and their handling of the situation, insisting that they must follow him in the ritual.

This is a clear shot at the government and its handling of the pandemic, where corruption has seen the poor take the brunt of the punishment. Raikan is their scapegoat, and Kubozuka delivers the final monologue with a steady tone covering the rage within, to be unleashed. Essentially this is about his performance and the delivery of the final message towards the government: the translation a humorously clumsy dig, but also damning in its intent.

Three shorts essentially made in response to sources of anger, Toyoda has effectively been able to turn his this to art while it is still relevant. Giving the trio central signposts, such as Mount Resurrection Wolf and the Olympic Stadium, it has given him the base to build upon. The opening and closing segments amount to a single scene to convey a message, giving Toyoda a platform to express himself.

Working alongside a strong central cast across the trilogy, as well as close collaboration for the soundtracks, there is a consistency that runs through, with all onboard for the central messages. This also makes the Resurrection Trilogy greater than the sum of its parts and can be watched as one feature. While each has its key motivation, collectively they serve as a general anger towards modern Japan and its authorities.

Filmed in his trademark style, Toyoda has shown himself to be a political filmmaker, as well as stylish, making effective use of the traditional in combination with an angry modern Japan, as he proves himself a master of the cinematic music video.

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