Director Yoshiyuki Kishi and screenwriter Takehiko Minato took the difficult task of adapting celebrated author Shûji Terayama. The late Terayama, as a film director, produced some of the 1960-70’s most radical titles of Avant-Garde with such works as Throw away your books and Rally in the street (1971), Emperor Tomato ketchup (1971) and Pastoral Hide and Seek (1974). Terayama, the author, loved his home district of Shinjuku as well as social issues, boxing, horse racing and provocation.
Wilderness – Part 1 & 2, the resulting adaptation by Kishi and Manato of Terayama’s novel, is a fascinating and glorious piece of provocative cinema. An effective drama, a sport film (boxing) and an Art film. Its in two parts making it 5 hours long.
The action takes place in the very near future within the Tokyo district of Shinjuku. It mainly evolves around the Shinji (Masaki Suda) & Kenji (Ik-joon Yang) characters and their surrounding ecosystem, composed of a gallery of engaging misfits, about to collapse. Shinji is a young offender with inner violence issues. You can get him off the street but it seems you can’t get the street off him. Kenji is a bullied boy who stutter, thus making communication quite difficult. In the midst of surrounding social uprising and daily life confrontations, both seize an opportunity to enlist in a local boxing facility in an attempt to confine violence into the ring…. with mixed results.
The main force of Wilderness – Part 1 & 2 lies in the way the makers appropriate the material, making it their own while managing to be spiritually faithful. The rage, the social background, the call to go against the odds are all there, intact, while Yoshiyuki Kishi’s signature seems more disciplined compared to Terayama’s more eclectic popping eye style. To each his own era, but the themes, the consideration and caring put into the exploration of the subject’s layers, patiently building rich and complex characters out of the blue, leads to a succession of powerfully rewarding sequences.
As the pieces are put together, it is instinctively violent with passionate fervor, loaded with fieriness, rage and despair. All of this is sustained by an incredibly solid supporting cast creating a truthful collection of outcasts. Ultimately they all strip their own character to a point where we are allowed to see their bare naked souls and can witness the best of them. They come as they are trying to come to term with their own demons.
Wilderness – Part 1 & 2 is as timeless as it is utterly brilliant. A major film.
Fantasia Screening : Sunday July 22, 4:20 PM, Concordia University’s J.A. DeSève Cinema