800 Two-Lap Runners

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800 Two-Lap Runners 

t.l. I due corridori degli 800 metri piani

Japan, 1994, 110’, Japanese
Directed by: Hiroki Ryuichi
Screenplay: Kato Masato
Photography (color): Kayano Naoki 
Editing: Suzuki Kan
Art Direction: Yamazaki Teru 
Music: Tomita Motohiro 
Producers: Yoshiwara Isao, Inami Munetaka, Tanaka Michi, Okada Yu
Cast: Matsuoka Shunsuke, Eugene Nomura, Arimura Tsugumi, Kawai Miwako, Shiraishi Reiko, Hakamada Yoshihiko

Date of First Release in Territory: July 9th, 1994


Coming-of-age films are a major genre in Japan with teen love a big theme. But expressions of it rarely go far beyond purehearted declarations of affection. 
Based on a novel by Kawashima Makoto about two high school runners who become rivals on the track and in their love lives, Hiroki Ryuichi’s 800 Two-Lap Runners breaks with seishun eiga (“teen film”) convention, as characters hop into bed with each other at regular intervals.
An experienced director of erotic films when he made his straight feature debut with 800 Two-Lap Runners in 1994, Hiroki was well qualified to bring Kawashima’s sexually charged novel to the screen. 
Despite its opening scene – a boy bonking a girl in a gym storeroom when he is rudely interrupted by an incoming girls’ PE class – the film is not a teen sex comedy. Instead the boy, the buff-looking Nakazawa Ryuji (Eugene Nomura), joins the track team at the urging of the school principal – and to avoid punishment for the storeroom incident. There he discovers a talent for running the 800-meter race, which fuels his already substantial self-confidence – and arrogance.
Next we meet Hirose Kenji (Matsuoka Shunsuke), a 800-meter runner at another high school, who is haunted by the memory of Aihara (Hakamada Yoshihiko), an upperclassman on his team who committed suicide. Glimpsed briefly in a flashback, he was Kenji’s idol and lover. 
In sharp contrast to Ryuji, the rebellious son of a yakuza, Kenji is a serious type who has made a close study of his sport. He finds a kindred spirit in Yamaguchi Kyoko (Kawai Miwako), who was once Aihara’s girlfriend and is similarly obsessed with both running and Aihara. Kenji’s cheeky younger sister Nao (Shiraishi Reiko) warns him that Kyoko has a reputation for sleeping around, but that doesn’t discourage Kenji from trying – and failing – to make love to her. 
Meanwhile, Ryuji becomes infatuated with Ida Shoko (Arimura Tsugumi), a hurdles specialist. When she confesses that someone she likes is a lousy lover, Ryuji says she can keep up her romance with the other guy, but “leave the sex part to me.” 
At a training camp for new high school track and field athletes, Ryuji, Kenji, Kyoko, Shoko and Nao all become acquainted. The two boys compete on the track, and then in the bedroom, with the girls calling most of the shots. Shoko ends up sleeping with Kenji, while seeing in him the same fierce competition spirit that motivates her. And Nao tries to seduce Ryuji, but he can’t get over her resemblance to her brother.
The film plays this romantic roundelay more for character revelation than for titillation, with Hiroki’s camera observing from a distance or insinuating itself with discretion, using the sort of gently floating moves that were to become his directorial signature. At the same time, the story subverts expectations, with Ryuji the self-proclaimed “lover of sex” losing out to Kenji, who ends up in bed with both Kyoko and Shoko. 
Though the characters speak blunt truths about themselves and others, the girls more than the boys, there are no dramatic awakenings or revelations. And while celebrating the freedom and vigor of youth, the film is also about pain, loss and regret. 
As was to become another Hiroki trademark, the pop music soundtrack evocatively captures the film’s bittersweet mood. The Doris Troy R&B classic Just One Look, a full-throated ode to love at first sight, plays when Ryuji makes his first triumphant run around the high school track. But that one look, he is to find out, can lead to heartbreak. And victory doesn’t always come easily. 


Hiroki Ryuichi 


Born in 1955, Hiroki Ryuichi comes from the pink film industry. In 1994, 800 Two-Lap Runners became his international breakthrough. Hiroki is best known for his films about outsider heroines, including Vibrator (2003), It’s Only Talk (2005) and Your Friend (2008). In 2009 he had his first big commercial hit with the medical melodrama April Bride. He has continued to alternate between commercial works-for-hire and more personal projects, including Side Job. (2017, shown at FEFF 2018). This year the FEFF is presenting 800 Two-Lap Runners, his reincarnation drama Phases of the Moon and his BSDM romance You’ve Got a Friend.  


1994 – 800 Two-Lap Runners
2003 – Vibrator
2008 – Your Friend
2009 – April Bride
2010 – The Lightning Tree
2015 – Kabukicho Love Hotel
2017 – Side Job
2021 – Ride or Die
2022 – Noise
2022 – You’ve Got a Friend
2023 – Phases of the Moon

Mark Schilling
Film Director: HIROKI Ryuichi
Year: 1994
Running time: 101'
Country: Japan