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March 23, 2009

Philadelphia Film Festival 2009: 20th Century Boys


20-seiki shonen
Yukihiko Tsutsumi - 2008
Toho Company 35mm film

With much thanks to Lewis Tice of TLA Releasing, I will be writing about some of the the films shown at the Philadelphia Film Festival from my abode in Littleton, Colorado. W.C. Fields to the contrary, I would think that many cinephiles would want to be in Philadelphia, if not for the films I'll be covering, than for some of the other work to be presented.

I've only seen one other film by Yukihiko Tsutsumi. 2LDK is a small scale piece, essentially two women in their shared apartment. The two women also happen to be struggling actresses coveting the same role. While waiting for the phone call that let's them know who won the part, the two engage in an escalating battle using their wits, physical abilities and various household appliances.

20th century boys 2.jpg

20th Century Boys is the opposite in that it is a sprawling epic. Most of the film jumps between 1970 and 1997, the year that a group of school children create their own club, and the year they come together following a school reunion. In 1970, one of the boys, Kenji, writes and draws what is titled, "The Book of Prophesies". A childhood fantasy about the apocalyptic end to the 20th Century, the incidences described are manifest by someone who knew Kenji and was familiar with the long-buried book. A blood draining virus and acts of destruction are secretly the work of someone who calls himself Friend, the unknown person from Kenji's childhood. Friend is the leader of a cult that has amassed a large following as well as political influence. Pegging Kenji as the terrorist responsible for Friend's acts, Kenji and his childhood friends band together to fight Friend and reveal the truth about his goals.

It should be noted that this is the first part of two films. To judge 20th Century Boy as a stand alone feature would be unfair as much of the film is a set-up for the second part which film festival attendees will be able to see. The original manga, the basis for the films is available online. Setting aside the basic dystopian view of an alternate Japan, what makes the film meaningful is Kenji story about youthful idealism trampled by pragmatic realities. The film begins with the T. Rex song, "20th Century Boy" and Kenji's boyhood belief that rock music would change the world. Finding himself as the manager of an unsuccessful convenience store, the real core of 20th Century Boys is about reclaiming idealism. I just hope I don't have to wait too long to see the sequel.

20th Century Boys will play March 28 and 30 at the film festival. Chapter Two will play on March 29 and April 2.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 23, 2009 12:56 AM


I have seen it too. It's very cool, the music that plays when building up the moments for the climax is amazing. This is the first film but its pretty epic by itself, dont'cha think? I hope the dvd with the movie 2 is released soon, i plan on importing it since i am from mexico, see you!

Posted by: Cesar at April 21, 2009 04:05 PM