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What they say: Koji Wakamatsu’s (Caterpillar) epic docudrama explores the political unrest of 1960′s Japan, when mass student uprisings coincided with the beginnings of the far-left United Red Army group, which tortured and murdered its ”deviant” members during a 1972 training session. An uncompromising piece of filmmaking from one of Japan’s most controversial filmmakers, with a score by former Sonic Youth member Jim O’Rourke.
What I say: Kôji Wakamatsu has a lot to say about Japan and a lot to say about its past. Starting off with stock footage from the 60’s this three hour epic then chronicles the rise and fall of the United Red Army, a group of young leftists. After some of their members are killed they retreat to the mountains and things go downhill from there as the leaders start imposing crazed standards on their members. This film chronicles that time and the insanity that came because of it.
Wakamatsu obviously looks at the history of Japan and feels the need to chronicle it so that it does not happen again. Political aspirations can always go wrong when humans are involved and bad choices are made. This ground by secluding themselves let ego take off and it imploded them.
This is a chilling look at when idealism can go wrong. Wakamatsu looks head on at these events and bring them to us in a very realistic manner. At times it almost feels like a documentary.
Of special not is the haunting, moody score by Jim O’Rourke formerly of Sonic Youth. It really seals the feeling of tragedy and hopelessness that eventually envelopes the film. Wakamatsu even sacrificed his house to film the finale. That, my children, is dedication to your art!
This, like much of Wakamatsus work, is an uncompromising look at Japan and its politics and he is not afraid to show it how it was and put it all out no matter how ugly it is.