ASIAN FILM - Article
17:00 - 28th September 2014, by NEO Staff

Buyer’s Guide No. 46 - Fighting Elegy

Seijun Suzuki’s penultimate film for Nikkatsu Studios, before the wonderful Branded To Kill got him fired, was a comedy with a very serious message. Set in the 1930s, Fighting Elegy stars Hideki Takahashi as middle school student Kiroku, who lives in a boarding house with the family of beautiful, church-going, piano-playing Michiko (Junko Asano). Kiroku is absolutely smitten with her, but he is constantly urged to stay away from girls by his macho classmates and to concentrate all his energy into becoming a ‘real man’, which mostly involves brawling at every opportunity. The intensity of the fight scenes was groundbreaking for the period, but the film constantly satirizes Kiroku and his classmates for their misguided ideas. Kiroku himself is torn between his attraction for Michiko, which manifests in his tendency to become awkwardly aroused at the mere thought of her, and his devotion to discipline and self-denial.

The film’s darker side begins as an undercurrent that seeps through in the bloody punch-ups, but fully emerges when Kiruko meets a writer who turns out to be Kita Ikki. The historical figure of Kita was a nationalist who was executed in 1937 following the failed coup of February 1936 led by a group of young officers in the Japan Imperial Army. Kita was implicated in the coup and sentenced to death in a secret military trial. The writer’s presence in Suzuki’s film reflects the darkness that overtakes the comedy, as Kiroku’s personality gradually hardens so that he transforms from a repressed young man into a committed fascist. At the end of the story, he joins the military and heads off to fight. However, this time it will be a real battle – war – not just an expression of teenage exuberance and raging hormones, while poor Michiko is literally trampled under the boots of fascism. A remarkable cinematic and political statement.

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