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December 03, 2012

X Game

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X gemu
Yohei Fukuda - 2010
Danger After Dark Region 1 DVD

I don't know if anyone reading recalls a story in the news about a an altercation at a high school reunion. One guy took out his anger at another guy decades after they had been in school together. As I recall, the guy doing the beating was the one previously bullied. Better known is the recounting of a high school Mitt Romney leading his friends in holding down a student who went against the grain simply by choosing to wear his hair a little longer, bleached blond. The other students remember Romney chopping off the students hair with scissors, and the sense of humiliation that followed. Romney claimed not to remember the incident. There may be some with nostalgia regarding their school days. For others, school was a way of marking time at best, or with painful memories that never go away.

X Game is a violent fantasy film about a bullied sixth grade girl's revenge on those who tormenter her the most. Those guilty include a teacher who indirectly condones the activity, and a boy who has appeared to try to stop the bullying. Four students, now older high school students, find themselves in a room made to look like their old classroom. The X Game consists of thirteen forms of punishment, written on red paper, pulled out of a special box by the victim. The four students receive heightened forms of punishment, more painful variations of the kind of torture done when younger. Revenge is less than sweet, and goes beyond the classroom.

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The film is adapted from a novel by popular novelist YusukeYamada. I am assuming the film was made for the same audience as those who read the books, making this a sharp contrast to English language movies about teen wizards and vampires. Yamada is not too much older than his readers, 31, and to the best of my knowledge has no books available in English.

As for director Yohei Fukuda, this film represents a big leap over the film that first brought him attention, Chanbara Beauty. What ever that film had or didn't have in terms of story or style was more than made up for in the endearing image of Eri Otoguro wearing a costume of a cowboy hat, boots, and a bikini. The filming here is more polished, with punctuations of low tech video, and extremely rapid flashes of images. Fukuda also finds ways of incorporating images of Xs throughout the film. Yamada has been adapted to film again by Fukuda in another game themed horror film, Bingo.

I normally don't discuss screenplay writers much, but the film was written by Yoichi Minamikawa in a second collaboration with Mari Asato. I've written about Mari Asato previously. For me this is worth noting as Asato is the only Japanese writer-director who I know of working consistently in the horror genre, with films generally aimed towards an older teen and young adult audience.

There are some ideas, both thoughtful and provocative, worth considering, that are hopefully not entirely subsumed within the rubric of "extreme cinema".

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 3, 2012 08:21 AM