5 April 1999 | Jasper-12
Imaginative but slackly plotted film which never quite fulfills its potential
There's a new girl at high school, Isuku (Rena Komine), whose arrival as a high diving champion creates quite a splash. Her appearance coincides with a double meteorite strike in the forest outside the town, which inexplicably acts as a catalyst for a drought and a local epidemic which causes ones inner organs to turn to stone. Taking in the whole spectrum of pre-Millennial New Age phenomena, Ishii's bizarre film is a bit of a mixed bag. Thematically, its a real inspiration: The X-Files notwithstanding, this sort of imaginative pseudo-scientific fantasy stands uniquely amongst contemporary cinematic output. To my mind it evokes the more imaginative sci-fi pictures from the 60's or 70's, such as Quatermass and the Pit' or Doomwatch'. ). Unfortunately in execution it is often unfocussed and confusing, lurching from one idea to the next (Gaia theory, Chaos theory) but never quite drawing any satisfying conclusions. It has a detached air about it which I personally find to be the case in a lot of Japanese films. This is often down to the cultural and linguistic differences, though in this case it is the plotting which is most likely the cause. It perhaps suffers from trying to fit just too much into its running time, and the finale is rambling and unnecessarily protracted. Stylistically the film admirably eschews expensive visual effects or CGI in its portrayal of the assorted esoteric ephemera, settling for natural lighting, brightly lit exteriors, rapid multiple-angle edits, and abstracted close-ups of natural phenomena (much akin to Pi'). Ishii certainly has an aesthetic eye, and the film possesses an oneiric quality that will remain with the viewer for a long period afterwards.