Monday, August 24, 2009

Shimotsuma monogatari (Kamikaze Girls) (2004)

This is totally my favorite movie of the moment. Based on the novel by fashion designer Novala Takemoto, Kamikaze Girls is told from the point of view of Momoko Ryugasaki, a young girl obsessed with the elegance and hedonism of the Rococo era. She purposely isolates herself from the inhabitants of her small town, contenting herself with shopping, daydreaming, and plenty of long walks. When she decides to earn some shopping money by selling brand-ripoff clothes that her father (Hiroyuki Miyasako) designed, Momoko meets Ichigo Shirayuri (Anna Tsuchiya), a gruff and talkative biker who needs a cheap blazer for a wedding.

For reasons unclear to Momoko, Ichigo returns to her house often to hang out, which boils down to the biker chatting incessantly at the taciturn and serious lolita. Eventually they discover that their spontaneous and often at-odds relationship has developed into a real friendship, and for the first time in each of their lives, they have someone to turn to in times of trouble: Ichigo is experiencing tension in her female biker gang as well as her first crush, while Momoko has been hired to embroider for her favorite designer and might crumble under the pressure. Together they fight new challenges, bringing out new strengths in one another, and there is a surprisingly bloody (yet upbeat) ending.

How can I explain how great this movie is? It's incredibly funny, from Momoko's adorable and blunt narration, to Ichigo's melodramatic yelling, to the silly anime-esque moments, to this guy. It's also quite touching at parts, with interesting and lovable characters who won me over instantly. There's a good use of flashbacks and some cool side characters. Plus, it has a totally kickass soundtrack (which of course is only available as a mad expensive import). But I now hope to cultivate an interest in Japanese female rock bands.

Visually, it's enthralling and inventive. There's a vague graininess and slight over-saturation that gives the whole movie a surreal or daydreamy feeling. There are unexplained moments of fantasy or weirdness adding to the effect. I also love the anime segments worked in to detail the legend of a mysterious female biker who fought off all the bad gangs. And of course, the fashion! All her talk of the elegance of the Rococo era did not fall on deaf ears- I actually just finished a class on French art from that time period- and I really enjoyed all of the focus on dresses and embroidery.

Kamikaze Girls is a wonderful film about two self-imposed outcasts surprised by their own friendship. It also offers an interesting look into the lolita and Yankī subcultures. It's got great music, hilarious jokes, general badassery, and stylish photography: it's just pretty swell. My goodness, after more viewings I'll probably bump it up to a 5/5.*

4.5/5

*UPDATE: Rewatching this movie leads me to unquestionably give it a 5/5. It's just so goddamn good.

10 comments:

  1. oh man i was totally gonna review this movie on my blog this week but you beat me too it, ill have to postpone :P Great article, you have a fantastic movie blog!

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  2. Aw I'm sorry for stealing your thunder! I look forward to reading your assessment of it though- I don't think I know anyone else who's seen it!

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