Oct 5, 2010


Titled Pornostar with little explanation and no visible connection to pornography in the slightest, Toshiaki Toyoda's debut feature finds an inexplicable script defining allusion towards the revolting youth of our Eastern brethren. Redubbed Tokyo Rampage for a US distribution seemed to be the only logical choice concerning the ill-kept and illogical titling of Pornostar but as quickly as the film begins, we're thrust into a story relying heavily on symbolism of unexplained hatred and prejudice against the Yakuza. Arano appears to be of mental deficiency, stalking the bustling streets with little to no human contact. Only with the appearance of a Yakuza does he resemble a human, and a violent one at that. Unexplained and unkempt are the only two traits this film abides by as it breaks all preexisting boundaries of film by offering no explanation and no mercy from the belligerent "storytelling" and sometimes shockingly beautiful scenarios. But not even raw ore can fulfill the needs of a cinematic miner as he/she struggles to find something more than rabid hatred to embrace.

Briskly acquiring speed via a narrowing view of a high-traffic crosswalk in Shibuya, the camera eventually centers on a coated figure with a blank expression of terminal sincerity. Arano is established first-and-foremost as a generic vision of troubled youth in Shibuya with modern "punk" sensibilities but a taste for bleeding the Yakuza as they are "not needed." These two words make up most of the muttered lines sprinkled across the film as he stabs and slices his way through criminal ranks until he happens across Kamijo, a Yakuza "tough guy" archetype who is troubled with the idea of stripping one of the their life, which mixes beautifully with the tense brotherhood that Arano and Kamijo create. Within this bond of fluctuating intensity lies a deep-seated fear of grievous injury, seeing as how Arano was created with the intention of psychotic tendencies which even leads him to stabbing a child upon the discovery of his enrollment in Yakuza Youth. Later on during the events of alternatively titled Tokyo Rampage, a murky pretense of plot is discovered when a woman decides to hitch Arano along for a ride by skateboarding and stealing a ghetto blaster loaded with LSD, to which is later applied to a humorous context as she nearly overdoses and is repeatedly kicked in the stomach as her gaze fixates on the ceiling while her tender body lurches on the bathroom floor, creating an oddly erotic effect.

Strangely enough with the lack of non-violent confrontations, the bizarre symbolism abroad finds a way to redeem the film's lacking efforts with zeal. Scenes of somber, ritualistic killings are followed by a torrential rain of knives, clattering to the streets avoiding the body of Arano and his compulsive and brutal nature. With his psychosis immortalized on the screen, one must wonder if he is the hero or the villain of this tale. After all, Kajimo has been personalized with the sad weight of his father's funeral on his shoulders which commits heavily to his reluctance to murder. The quickness of which Arano's moods shift is exhilarating and repulsive as demonstrated during a scene of drug trade. Refusing to lower the prices for a weighty amount of LSD, Arano and Kajimo's underlings engage in a laughing fit which prompts for a bracing stature the moment Kajimo mutters "Not these guys. Don't shoot." Contrary to his request, Arano's bloody and gashed face contorts to an expression of pleasure as he pulls out a gun, shooting both dealers in the head. Further possible scenes of symbolism revolve around Arano's catatonic nature on the couch of Kajimo's loft as he continuously lights matches to watch them burn out, then throwing them to the floor preoccupied by a large amounts of tomatoes. Kajimo's worrisome nature kicks in as he steps on the matches but in the process squashing tomatoes which can be taken as heavy foreshadowing to the amount of red we will be treated to later.

Only to add insult to injury is the usage of gnarling and dreamlike guitar as a backdrop into the mind of a youthful killer. Pornostar is a bizarre debut picture from a director who later establishes himself with films entirely unlike Pornostar which circumvents the illusion here that more is better. Perhaps the stringy substance of narrative is entirely unnecessary given the right techniques and social hamstrings to sever. Or maybe this is all an experimental facade to see how far the audience is willing to accompany Toyoda on his nihilistic stint with cruel rebellion. Regardless of intention, Toyoda has created something born into the world with a fervor to live. Instead of questioning the filmic biology of life and whether or not Pornostar should be, one must embrace the existence of such a film to turn shoulder and dodge the bullets of formulaic cinema processing. For these and many other reasons, Pornostar is a film that I grow more fond of the longer I ponder about the rampant anger that Arano has distilled upon me and all who view, regardless of opinion.


1 comment:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Another "cult item" i remember from `87 is "The Hidden" it was released for Halloween of that year at a time when Heather still had 3 months to live, i always get so senti-girl-tal about late `87 when Heather was still around and Michael Nouri and Kyle Maclachlen were doing battle with that slug from outer space. Maybe you could think of those days from time to time, think of "THE HIDDEN", "HEATHER", and her last few "DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES". I miss Heather so much but when i watch "The Hidden" its like i`m bringing her back to life again.