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April 23, 2008

Karaoke Terror

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Showa Kayo Daizenshu
Tetsuo Shinohara - 2003
Synapse Films Region 1 DVD

The title Karaoke Terror suggest someone just drunk enough to get onstage to sing "Feelings", "Achy Breaky Heart" or "I Will Always Love You", very, very badly. The original title , from Ryu Murakami's novel, means "Complete Showa Era Songbook". Most western viewers will miss any significance from that title. Overlooking the silly English language title, this is a film that will probably be most appreciated by those familiar with author Murakami.

The store is about two bands of outsiders. One is a group of young men who hang out together and periodically dress up to perform songs in costume, in a remote beach location, with no audience. The Midoris are a group of divorced women ranging in age from the early thirties to forties, unrelated but sharing the same last name, who also share an interest in music from their youth. The film follows the escalation of revenge between the two groups, after one of the men murders one of the women following her decline of his advances.

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For those who want a better idea of some of the Japanese pop songs of the time, or you just want to find out a bit more about Pinky and the Killers, this site will give you a better idea. Further musical explorations can be done here as well. Murakami has a very caustic view of Japan and Japanese society, but an abiding affection for popular culture in all its forms. In one scene, the four remaining Midoris discuss their next plan of action. Realizing there are only four of them, they think of themselves as The Beatles. When one asks who they were when they were five, the response is The Rolling Stones.

Murakami's novel was written in 1994. The songs used are similar in being about impossible love, or looking back to a lost past. As explained in the notes that come with the DVD package, the Showa era referred to by Murakami is Japan's post-war era which roughly coincides with his own birth and entrance into middle-age. The notes also helpfully come with the list of songs used in the soundtrack with the release dates and authors.

Those how are only familiar with Murakami through Takashi Miike's film, Audition may be disappointed by Karaoke Terror. The killings are bloody, but also very brief. Those who have read Murakami's books such as Coin-Locker Babies or 69 will see how the film fits in with Murakami's other works. The original novel seems to have not been translated into English.

It is worth noting that several of Murakami's other novels have been made into film, but have yet to be available in the U.S. Murakami also wrote and directed an English language film produced by none other than Roger Corman.

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Posted by peter at April 23, 2008 12:59 AM

Comments

As someone who loves Murakami and has a deep interest in showa era music I'm dying to see this! I didn't realize it had been released yet so thanks for the reminder Peter.

I wonder if the general interest in this movie is why my poor neglected Japanese music blog has suddenly been getting so many hits lately?

Posted by: Kimberly at April 23, 2008 02:55 PM

Expect more hits, as I have added a link to my review.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at April 23, 2008 08:27 PM

Thanks for the link add Peter, but now I feel super guilty for not updating the damn thing in ages, Ha!

Posted by: Kimberly at April 24, 2008 02:37 PM