Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 3rd, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1966
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writer: Kaneto Shindô
Cast: Hideki Takahashi, Yusuke Kawazu, Takeshi Kato, Isao Tamagawa
DVD Released: January 11th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Criterion
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: The year is 1935 Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi) is a rebellious youth whose temper always gets him into trouble. Michiko (Junko Asano) and her family share a home with Kiroku and his father. Kiroku while suspended from school meets Turtle an older boy (Yusuke Kawazu) who becomes his mentor. Kiroku doesn’t know how to express to Michiko his feelings for her which leads too them drifting further apart. After fighting with a final gang Kiroku is forced to leave town and stay with his uncle. It doesn’t take long before Kiroku shows his true colors as his temper gets him in trouble again. Will Kiroku finally express his love for Michiko or succumb to his inner rage?
Hideki Takahashi had previously worked Seijun Suzuki’s on the film Tattooed Life. A sequel for Fighting Elegy was in the works and the project was shelved indefinitely after the Nikkatsu Corporation fired Seijun Suzuki. Ikka Kita author of “An outline of a plan for the reconstruction of Japan” would play an important role in the changing climate in Japan in the 1930’s. His book would inspire thousands of soldiers too invade Tokyo and execute government officials. Fighting Elegy is loosely based on the events leading up to this pivotal moment in Japanese history. Fighting Elegy is a harsh look a fascism that is laced with some sharp dark humor.
There are two major plot points that the films revolves around. The first one being Kicoku’s inability to control his anger and the other major plot device is his love for Michiko. The lead actors Hideki Takahashi and Junko Asano complement each other performances. Hideki Takahashi perfectly captures the essence of his characters nervousness and adolescence desires.
The films Henry Mancini like score adds to the films romantic back story. The beautifully shoot in Black and white photography adds to the films simplicity. Over all the look of the film is subdued compared to Seijun Suzuki’s other films. There is a scene in which Seijun Suzuki uses bleach white photography while Kicoku who is getting aroused while listening to Michiko play the piano so he imagines himself fighting outside until he calms his hormones down. Fighting Elegy’s biting satire might put some viewers off. While those with enough patience will see the film for what it is a diamond in the ruff and Seijun Suzuki’s most personal film to date.
Fighting Elegy is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and it has been given an anamorphic enhancement for widescreen televisions. The blacks and grays are evenly balanced. Flesh tones look natural and grain is kept to a minimum. There are no problems with compressions and the print is in great shape except for a few instances that appear to be due to the source material. Criterions high definition transfer is on par with the Seijun Suzuki titles released by Home Vision.
This DVD comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track presented in a Dolby Digital Mono. The track is free of any distortion or hiss. The action is crisp and the dialog comes through crystal clear. Overall it is hard to believe that a film that is nearly forty years old could sound this good. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand.
Extras include the films original trailer and detailed liner notes written by film critic Tony Rayns. Criterion restores the picture and sound for the Fighting Elegy only to come up short in the extras department. All of their previous Seijun Suzuki releases all came with interviews. The Fighting Elegy is one of Seijun Suzuki’s more grounded films relying heavily on social commentary. This film is not your typical Seijun Suzuki film as it relies more on dark humor then flashy action set pieces.