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Movie Review: Kamikaze Girls

December 11, 2005

Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari)

Fukada Kyoko
Tsuchiya Anna
Dir. Nakashima Tetsuya

Kamikaze Girls is rare in that it is a Japanese import that does not involve Takashi Miike or Kitano Takeshi, though it does include some yakuza and a brief, but funny parody of Fukasaku’s yakuza flicks. Momoko (Fukada Kyoko) is a baroque fashion obsessed girl from a small town somewhere in the Kansai region, who spends her father’s Yen on billowy petticoats and freakishly gaudy period costumes (based in part on the outre’ dressed art students in Tokyo’s Harajuku district). Once her pops stops forking over the cash, she begins a scheme to bilk the local yokels out of money by selling fake Versace goods and attracts the attention of a foul mouthed biker gang girl Ichiko (Tsuchiya Anna). Over the course of the inevitable wacky road adventures, the two girls who at first mix like Bush and Kerry of course become friends, each willing to put her life on the line for the other.

The film keeps the broad comic tone throughout, even the brief moments of violence are thinned out with slapstick or animation. The two leads, pop music and TV starlets in Japan , surprise with their slapstick talent and comic timing and good chemistry. The style, the jokes, the humor, really has more to do with Japanese TV than with cinema, though it does have a polished look and rather vivid hues (in keeping with Momoko’s obsessions, likely). Still, even the uninitiated into Japanese pop culture may well find the film an amusing distraction. This look at two young contemporary Japanese women will make an interesting counterpoint to Memoirs of a Geisha.

EDIT: I didn’t make nearly enough of the historical cinematic references in Shimotsuma Monogatori. I think that’s interesting in a film clearly aimed at a youth audience, the movie would reference girl gang movies of the 1970’s. I wonder if the source material did the same thing, or perhaps this was the director’s whole cloth idea. I think the film needs to be reassessed by Western critics.

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