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Kamikaze Girls

Japan (2004), 102 minutes
Starring: Kyoko Fukada, Anna Tsuchiya, Hiroyuki Miyasako, Ryoko Shinohara
Reviewer: Jeremy Silman
Genre: Comedy
Rating: 4.5

As a Miike fan, outrageous perversion, buckets of blood, and raw insanity are nothing more than food for my movie-loving soul. Toss in Katsu’s Zatoichi (the blind swordsman), the frenetic madness of Versus, cinematographic tour de forces as exemplified by Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, and House Of Flying Daggers, and you might think you’ve figured out my tastes.

But let’s add a few more figures to the equation: I adored the neon insanity of Survive Style 5, and vented tears during my second viewing of the brilliant Golden Chicken (a comedy about the life of a Chinese prostitute). Speaking of tears, Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service always renders my dark side powerless in the grip of its overwhelming purity.

Adding these things up, we can see a propensity for anything bizarre, awe-inspiring cinematography, an excuse for sentimentality, innocence in the midst of chaos, and visions of worlds vastly different than our own.

Kamikaze Girls is based on a novel (“Shimotsuma Story”) by Japanese author, fashion designer, and guru of “Lolita style clothing,” Novala Takemoto. Fashion designer? My heart sank as I digested this information while simultaneously placing the disk in my DVD player. All was not lost, though, and more data was forthcoming: one site listed a few of Takemoto-san’s favorite things as rocking horse shoes, Christian Dior perfume, taxidermy, and dolls. Oh-my-god! I especially liked the quote (from Wikipedia): “It is said that he is a heterosexual man with the charisma of a young maiden.”

And, when these facts about the novelist bounced through my brain and lewdly mixed with that “Silman’s taste chart” above, it suddenly occurred to me that, if the director had any skills at all, this movie had to be a hands down winner!

Kamikaze Girls features two young Japanese pop stars, both of whom give fantastic performances. Kyoko Fukada plays a high school girl who is devoid of friends – preferring to bask in her obsession with Rococo style (baby doll/frills and lace) clothes, she yearns to a part of 18th century French aristocracy and laments the fact that she was born at the wrong time.

Anna Tsuchiya is an animal of a different sort – an aggressive high school biker chick. Both young ladies seem to be worlds apart, but both are also extreme outsiders and thus the resulting friendship isn’t surprising.

The story is about the directions both girls take in their lives, and the bond that forms between them. This sounds trite, and paints the film as a copy of so many other teenage movies, but don’t be fooled. You’ve never seen anything like this before! There’s quite a bit of complexity here, for those able to see it. And for those that wish to bask only on surface issues, the mix of laughs and pathos and imagery is more than enough to satisfy anyone with a taste for the bizarre.

Though the two young stars dominate the film, the cast of outrageous supporting characters is likely to remain burned into your brain for a long time to come. I won’t ever forget the eye-patched grandmother that catches flies from the air and stuffs them into her pocket, the denizen of pachinko parlors that wears a unicorn hairdo (Why in hell are women attracted to this guy? Could it be the do?), or… there are many, many more, but it’s best if you discover them for yourself.

Kamikaze Girls, which is destined to become a cult hit, is as much fun as you’re ever going to get from a movie. Don’t miss it.