Shuji Terayama's "Bokusa" was released shortly after the iconic film "Rocky" was unleashed upon the World, but this very Eastern film is hardly A "Japanese Rocky." It's many artistic, and sometimes avant-garde touches could not be more different from the style of that American produced film. Down on his luck Hayato, (the legendary Bunta Sugawara) is living a desolate life in a flophouse, slowly drinking himself to death, after his promising career as a champion boxer, crashes, when he suddenly decided to "quit boxing...." right in the middle of an important match. Fast forward a decade, and the story finds Hayato seeking revenge upon the young man that killed his brother, quite possibly intentionally, during a mishap on a construction site. The boy responsible, Kentaro, is an up and coming boxer who lacks the talents of the older man. An uneasy relationship develops between the men, when Kentaro convinces the washed up Hayato to train him, and mold him into a champion.
That's the premise. The two men begin to form a kind of "father and son connection," as the grueling training process unfolds. But where a Western movie will tend to go for a sappy and sentimental angle, this strange production enters unfamiliar territory...unfamiliar at least, for a boxing movie. Art and boxing won't always blend well, unless you have a Master like Terayama behind the camera. He manages to incorporate the surreal touches that are synonymous with his name; the garish, artificial color schemes, which give the film a beautiful and odd look, the wild camera angles, as well as the inclusion of some truly bizarre characters, who seem like they have stepped out of some alternate reality. These touches are great, but they might diminish the emotional impact of the story, by alienating the viewer. Japanese cinema is truly art, that uses imagery, and not just a script, to tell a story. "Bokusa" still delivers what we expect from a boxing film, such as the adrenaline pumping training sequences, and the violent, exciting fight scenes, not to mention an unforgettable soundtrack that is unique and sometimes haunting, but always compliments the visuals. "Bokusa" is sadly and unjustly unavailable to Western audiences, but when you see it,you might understand why no American film distributor picked it up, as it is a very Eastern film that won't connect with everyone. But for fans of this genre, that are willing to take a gamble on something different, this is definitely worth tracking down. The only other film from director Shuji Terayama, that got general release in the West, was the erotic film "Fruits of Passion" with Klaus Kinski. The two films have many similarities, visual and otherwise.
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