10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Calamari Wrestler, The 
Written by: on December 6th, 2006

Theatrical Release Dates:
30 July 2004 (Canada, Fantasia Film Festival), 13 May 2005 (New York)
Director: Minoru Kawasaki
Screenplay: Minoru Kawasaki, Masazaku Migita
Producer: Shuntaro Kanai
Cast: Kana Ishida, Osamu Nishimura, Matthew Saliba, Yoshihiro Takayama

DVD release date: September 6th, 2005
Approximate running time: 86mins
Aspect ratio: Anamorphic  Widescreen
Rating: Unrated
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD release: Pathfinder Home Entertainment
Region coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.98

Action-packed Kawasaki vehicle that, as always with this director behind the camera, is a multiple-genre blend: fantasy, comedy, drama, and wild insane action. In several of his films there is a start sequence that last for some minutes before the opening credits appear on the screen (as in the James Bond movies), so also in Calamari Wrestler. The opening credits themselves, by the way, here as in other of the director’s films, are set against a complex moving, animated background, another visual idea that leads the thoughts to the 007 franchise.

How many films have you seen in which a girl has sex with a squid? Or Kung fu-movies where the fight stands between a giant insect and an octopus?…where the man-octopus, man-squid or man-insect transformation is emotionally controlled… Calamari Wrestler makes Gozu look quite ordinary.

From the first frame we are in the middle of the action. It is the title match championship (IMPG) of the Super Japan Pro Wrestling that is a martial-art derivative of regular wrestling where the rules allow for kicking and punching your opponent. Koji Taguchi is beating the crap out of his too slow opponent and wins; he is crowned the Champion. Startlingly, as Koji is celebrating and waving to his wonderful, bubbly girlfriend Miyako in the crowd of spectators, a giant squid snatches the championship belt from his hand! The ‘Calamari Wrestler’ has entered the scene and jumps at Koji, kicking him, bashing him unconscious. The crowd is just delighted of what they are witnessing! Except Miyako of course.

All the sport promoters look like Yakuza bosses taken from any of Takashi Miike’s underground gangster flicks. One of them, Master Mitsuteru Senzan (grotesquely overplayed by however the actor is) turns out to be the secret trainer of the Calamari Wrestler who, in fact, is the reincarnation of a human: Kan-ichi Iwata, who once was a young talent at the Japan Pro Wrestling Federation. Kan-ichi is the ex-fiancé of Miyako, and to take the complexity of the plot in overdrive – Miyako is the daughter of the Wrestling Federation Commissioner, the powerful Kamohashi. Miyako and Koji (in co-ordination with Miyako’s father) were in talks of marriage-plans before the Calamari (Kan-ichi) arrived. The rest of the film deals with how Miyako is torn between lover and ex-lover. In every Kawasaki film, a beautiful female has a central role. One could argue that the director’s films are about women, and how these women are correlated to the man-dominated society they are living in. Nevertheless, regarding a country like Japan, the argument would certainly be significant. It is a hilarious film, easily on par with last year’s mind-bending horror/comedy/action Executive Koala (2005).

As in David Cronenberg’s The Fly, the animals (or man-animal hybrids if you like) are deeply emotional creatures. They are drawn to human (always beautiful) females and they want to be loved. Kawasaki’s animals want to be respected in the human society they inexplicably are living in, as regards professional life as well as private. Check out Calamari Wrestler when you are tired of those ordinary-looking films like Gozu and Ichi the Killer.

The DVD:

The Pathfinder Pictures release is presenting the film in anamorphic 16:9 Widescreen format. The extras are just fabulous! This is how every DVD should be like in this department: There is a ‘Making of’ featurette, a still gallery, 2 trailers, 2 TV spots, a marvellous music video, and 7 trailers of other Pathfinder DVD releases, including trailers of the Takashi Miike films Andromedia, Yakuza Demon and Gozu.

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