Toshiaki Toyoda's third film 9 Souls is one of the most accomplished films that has come out of Japan recently. Toyoda himself appears to be a director who doesn't put a foot wrong. If, for some, this is because he doesn't venture far off the beaten path, as far as form is concerned, he has most definitely chosen the way he wishes to follow. He's not interested in what he feels are the excesses of modern Japanese cinema, and berates Takashi Miike for not making proper films. However, his subject matter can be outrageous even by the standards set by his fellow countrymen. The first thing his 9 Souls do, having broken out of jail, is find a sheep to have sex with. Only one of them finds the fact that the victim happens to be a ram a cause for concern. And in a sense this scene sets the tone of the whole enterprise.
As in Blue Spring, Toyoda takes a classic movie theme, and puts his own indelible stamp on it. In one, its the concrete jungle. In this, its the jail break. More than most, he uses little conventional plotting to develop the theme, using his time more to show the characters interacting, which in turn forms what plot there is. But whenever he takes one of these great simple themes....and 9 Souls owes its existence as a homage to The Great Escape....you know that other directors will have handled the themes differently, but none will have managed it with such a masterly mix of humour and pathos.