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  Survive Style 5+ Fully Functional
Year: 2004
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Ittoku Kishibe, Shihori Kanjiya, Kyôko Koizumi, Hiroshi Abe, Vinnie Jones, Yumi Asou, Reika Hashimoto, YosiYosi Arakawa, Sonny Chiba, Jai West, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Kanji Tsuda, Tomokaza Miura
Genre: WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Aman (Tadanobu Asano) has murdered his wife and has brought the body into the forest around their house to bury it. He tells us that most people, like those of us watching this film, will never know what it's like to want to murder anyone as he digs the hole, drags the body into it, makes sure she's dead by beating it, and returns home in his car. The house is quiet, and he settles down in front of the television, staring blankly at the screen, until deciding he is thirsty and goes to the fridge in the kitchen. Taking out a carton of milk, he begins to drink when something catches his eye - he swings round and spits out a mouthful of milk. His wife is sitting, unscathed, at the table, staring at him.

And that's just the start of the first story. Survive Style 5+ is anything but normal, and with an opening like that you might be settling down for a horror movie, but this is all too eccentric to be easily fitted into one category. Written by Taku Tada for commercials director (and his partner in the advertising industry) Gen Sekiguchi, here making their debut film, there are, as the title suggests, five stories for our appraisal, all interlinked in various ways but mainly by the intervention of a British hitman (Vinnie Jones) who has been brought over to Japan for an assassination job. He has a catchphrase too, which is to angrily ask people, "What is your function in life?"

And he's usually not to happy at the answers he gets, either. The general image of Japanese popular culture in the West tends towards the wacky, and this film lives up to that impression; if hearing Sonny Chiba incredulously asking, "Mast-ah-bay-shun?!" tickles your funny bone then search this out. Another story sees a conventional family delighted that the father, Mr Kobayashi (Ittoku Kishibe), has secured valuable tickets to the show performed by a famed and extravagant hypnotist (Hiroshi Abe). We have already encountered this chap in a scene where he is in a post-lovemaking situation with advertising executive Yoko (Kyôko Koizumi), who keeps getting bizarre ideas for future advertising campaigns which she records on a little tape recorder - ideas such as the man who's fastest at sex being appropriate for selling internet providers.

Lastly, in the weakest tale there is a group of three petty criminals, two of whom are developing an amusingly homosexual attraction to each other. Survive Style 5+ could be classed as a comedy, as evinced by a scene where Mr Kobayashi is hypnotised into believing he is a bird only for the hitman to arrive on stage and kill the hypnotist before he can change him back, but there's a - slightly too vague - philosophical tone too, a sort of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" theme for the returning wife story, for example. That plotline features the most action, with the wife (Reika Hashimoto) straight faced but vengeful, committing weird acts of violence against her husband such as letting her fists fly off her arms to punch him. Yet every section has its peculiar appeal, some of it laugh out loud funny, some reflective and poignant. The resolutions may not quite match what has gone before, but this is an engagingly odd, attractively bright work. Music by James Shimoji.

[The Manga Region 2 DVD looks and sounds great, and features a "making of" documentary, the trailer, and trailers from their catalogue.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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