"Blue Spring is about a bunch of punk high school seniors who would have been perfect candidates for a one way trip to a deserted island to play a little Battle Royale."
Blue Spring (2001)
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda
Producer: Dai Miyazaki, Tomohiro Kobayashi
Cast: Ryuhei Matsuda, Hirofumi Arai, Sosuke Takaoka, Yusuke Oshiba, Mame Yamada
Running Time: 83 min.
Plot: A story about high school anarchy in the tradition of FUDOH. This school is surrounded by misleadingly picturesque cherry trees in full bloom, it's the students who set the rules while uncooperative teachers are dangled from windows.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
JESSE'S REVIEW: It is graduation day at an unnamed school located in Japan. Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda) and Aoki (Hirofumi Ara) break into the roof and meet up with their gang of High School buddies, which also includes Yukio, Kimura, Ohta, and Yoshimura. Kujo, our main character in this story, takes a picture of the gang and then they proceed to play their ritualistic clapping "game." This is how the game works: each person grasps unto part of the metal railing and stands on the side of the roof facing the ground, and whoever can clap the most without holding onto anything and without falling to their death is named the new leader of the school. After a beautiful montage that shows the group walking in slow-motion to the tune of Thee Michelle Gun Elephant's punk anthem "Akage No Kelly", we discover that Kujo beat his other classmates in the game with a new high score of 8 claps, thus making him the newly appointed ruler of the school. As the film unfolds, we learn all about each member in this rebellious group, and how their lack of direction and complete passiveness when dealing with the world around them is their ultimate downfall.
After watching the trailer for Blue Spring and hearing others reactions to this film, it might seem like a taut, action-packed Yakuza High School drama that is basically just style over substance. Yes the film has a short running time of only 83 minutes (78 if not counting credits) and does offer many extremely inventive and jaw-dropping sequences that are mostly as great as they are because of the director's master ability to do just about anything he pleases with the camera, and due to the invigorating soundtrack featuring the Japanese Rock band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. Now while any movie with songs by TMGE in it is guaranteed not to suck, there is a lot more to Blue Spring than just catchy music and cool camera tricks.
The film has an almost documentary feel to it, where everything seems to play out in real time. We don't get much of a history of who these kids are or what really caused them to lose their hope in any real kind of real future outside of just lounging around school bullying everyone around, but we do get to see them in their day to day activities while in school and we eventually learn what each of them wanted to do when they did have at least some kind of motivation.
One of the characters always wanted to be a professional baseball player, until he cost his team the Nationals by pitching a fastball instead of a curve like his catcher had instructed him to do. Because of that, he loses all faith in himself and instead decides to join up with one of the Yakuzas in which his friend belongs, at the same time instructing his protege to practice hard and to attain the kind of dream that he himself gave up on. When asked by a student counselor what he wants to do after school, Yukio (Sousuke Takaoka) replies "I have hopes for world peace and whatever." Basically meaning that he has no idea whatsoever. About halfway into the film while Yukio and another member of the aforementioned group of friends are in a stall together sharing a cigarette, Yukio snaps out of desperation and all the pressure that has been put on him, which ends up in him taking a long knife and stabbing his friend with it. It doesn't seem like a completely crazy thing to do, because earlier in the film Yukio tells Kujo that the guy he kills later on (don't want to spoil anything so I won't name names) is an ass-kisser and at the very beginning we see Yukio asking him if we wants to die.
Now in a less subtle film, most people would have been able to catch that small exchange near the start of the film. But it's something that I (and others that i've talked to) didn't even notice until after repeat viewings. Blue Spring may appear to be a simple teen angst Japanese-style film on the surface, but it is much deeper than that, and is really quite thought provoking. The film does get a little confusing and is maybe a little too complex for its own good due to all its small and not always very memorable supporting characters.
There is also a lot of symbolism in the film that isn't always evident until the very end in an exciting and emotional scene in which one character does his best to save his best friend from the fate that has befallen so many of his former classmates. Take for instance the scene where one of the teachers at the school convinces a few of the main characters to plant flowers and watch how they grow.
At the beginning of the film, we don't really know much about any of these kids, but as the film progresses we gradually learn more and more about them and are able to see what makes them tick. Kujo, Aoki and the others are the flowers, but they have two choices: to continue to grow and gain self-knowledge and start caring, or just wither up and die. The main plot of the film doesn't really begin until nearly an hour into the film, and it deals with Aoki, Kujo's best friend since Elementary School, trying to take over the school and challenging Kujo after Kujo gets angry with Aoki for always depending on him and never thinking for himself. While the film is so short and fairly fast paced that we never do get to know a whole lot about each of the characters, it is not hard to feel sympathy for the two leads and understand why Aoki changes like he does.
The acting is superb in Blue Spring, with Matsuda as Kujo, and Takaoka as Yukio's performances standing out the most. There are a few violent scenes that will make you flinch not necessarily because of what is shown on screen, but what is implied. The movie does fall a little short in terms of pacing (feels a little too slow near the middle, but rushed near the end) and 10 or 15 extra minutes with a little more character development wouldn't have hurt, but nonetheless Blue Spring is a very entertaining and even somewhat poignant film that really requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate it.
Whether you are a High School student or an 80 year old living in a nursing home, you will still be able to enjoy this film very much, and it will definitely hit you where it counts.
JESSE'S RATING: 8.5/10
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Blue Spring is about a bunch of punk high school seniors who would have been perfect candidates for a one way trip to a deserted island to play a little Battle Royale. Unfortunately, they didn't. There wasn't much to the plot of Blue Spring other than the fighting between the various hoodlum students in their struggle to be the "boss" of their classes. There were a few cool scenes, and a few interesting moments, but overall it was somewhat dull and slow paced.
Near the end of the movie I was thinking about it and deciding what score I'd give it, and I was settling on a 6/10 when one of the coolest shots I've ever seen in any movie occurred. Aoki, a former friend (now rival) of the main character (Kujo), stood on the roof, gripping a metal railing. He stood there as the time lapse shot went by. He didn't move a muscle the ENTIRE NIGHT. You watch the day turn to night and see the dawn arrive as he stands there, entirely motionless. I had to give the movie a higher score just for that shot alone, and for the actor who had the dedication and willingness to do a shot like that. Well done, bro'!
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 7/10