Typhoon Club

Italian Premiere | Out Of Competition | PART 2 - A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s | acknowledgement to SOMAI Shinji

 

> First released in 1985, Somai Shinji’s Typhoon Club has come to be regarded in Japan as a modern masterpiece, ranked number 10 in Kinema Junpo magazine’s list of all-time best Japanese films .

Set principally in a provincial junior high school over a five-day period, the film bursts with a febrile energy and delirious excess that go beyond mere realism, though it reflects the troubled state of Japanese education in the 1980s, with teachers losing authority and kids running wild. (Disclosure: I speak from experience, as a teacher in a Tokyo boys’ high school at the time.) At the same time, Typhoon Club illuminates not only the hormonal disturbances and eruptions of youth in any society anywhere, but also the anarchic streak in human nature celebrated in the ancient cult of Dionysus, whose mythic revels could culminate in violent death .

Shot by Somai with his signature long takes and an inventive range of camera positions and moves that enhance the drama rather than intrude on it, the film is light on explanation and plot, heavy on atmosphere and mood. This impressionistic approach, with groups of similarly attired characters moving about in the nighttime dimness, can make it somewhat hard to sort out who is who .

But from the start it is clear that the students of Oda Junior High are restless as summer vacation nears and the coming typhoon announces its presence. This is shown comically, as girls at the school swimming pool strip and half strangle Akira (Matsunaga Toshiyuki), the class clown, who was peeping at them with his goggled head half submerged in the water .

But once in the math class of Mr. Umemiya (Miura Tomokazu), a time-serving young teacher who is bored with his subject and irritated by his unruly students, we begin to sense darker currents. After the classroom is invaded by the angry mother of Umemiya’s girlfriend, who loudly demands that he marry her daughter, his students riot and brawl – and the laughs at his expense vanish .

Nonetheless the usual adolescent romantic rivalries and jealousies play out as the storm nears. The pigtailed Rie (Kudoh Youki) runs away thinking that a guy she likes, the serious-minded Kyoichi (Mikami Yuichi), is being stolen by another girl. After the typhoon hits, though, a small group of students, including Kyoichi, find themselves stranded in the school, as inhibitions disappear and forbidden urges flower .

In the film’s most disturbing scene a blank-eyed boy assaults a terrified girl hiding in the teachers’ room and is ripping off her clothes when he is interrupted. Later the girl and her pals strip as they dance wildly on the school stage – and are joined by the boy, now only in his underpants, accepted if perhaps not forgiven .

Meanwhile, Rie is shopping in Tokyo’s Harajuku district – then as now a magnet for young fashionistas – with a smooth-talking college guy (Omi Toshinori), but once in his apartment, she gets cold feet and beats a hasty retreat in the midst of a drenching storm .

Finally, the typhoon passes and the kids run from the school to romp ecstatically and nakedly in the night as Somai’s camera observes from a non-judgmental, non-exploitative distance. And in a deserted shopping arcade Rie encounters two street performers in white make-up playing ocarinas and sliding back and forth like conjoined dolls. How bizarre – but the film has still more strangeness in store. Even a youthful death comes to look blackly comic .

Typhoon Club, however, is anything but a surreal, cynical deconstruction of the comingof- age genre. Instead, it is an imaginative celebration and unblinking examination of youth in all its madness, ferocity and joy.

Mark Schilling
Film director: SOMAI Shinji
Year: 1985
Running time: 115'
Country: Japan
25/04 - 6:00 PM
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
25-04-2024 18:00 25-04-2024 19:55Europe/Rome Typhoon Club Far East Film Festival Visionario, Via Asquini 33CEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery