Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Takuji Kitamura's Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge (2007)

Richard Pryor once said, "Girls will get you killed." Indeed. Nothing brings out the faux cool in the fellas, like the presence of a pretty girl. From waiting for an hour outside of a building to get a glimpse of her walking out to jumping off the top of a multistory building, Jackass-style, men have done (and will continue to do) some of the most ridiculous and insane acts to attract the attention of women. So, one evening while coming home Yosuke (Hayato Ichihara) sees pretty Eri (Megumi Seki) sitting alone in a playground--only to be subsequently attacked by a chainsaw-wielding phantom falling out of the sky. Yosuke has two options: go sit with Charlie Brown and obsess over the little red-headed girl or jump in and save her. Eri can take care of herself (she's got superpowers), but Yosuke's in love: he'll help her, primarily as a liability, night after night, until she's defeated the monster. This is the deceiving and fantastic premise of Takuji Kitamura's Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge (2007).
Based on a novel by popular Tatsuhiko Takimoto, Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge is more akin to Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001, which also stars Hayato Ichihara) than to Noboru Iguchi's Machine Girl (2008). A sentimental film, no doubt, with often sensitive criticism of culture, especially the profound disconnect of youth to the culture-at-large and the adults who populate it. Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge isn't mindless juvenile fun: it's a lot deeper in substance. That's not to say, there is not a tremendous amount of fun to it all, because there is. Yosuke's mourning the loss of one of his best friends, who always called him "gutless" and Yosuke is continuing his friend's opinion of him: he no longer cares about anything and thinks the world is set to self-destruct. He's a prankster and a clown but is not ready to take any real risks in life. Eri is mourning a loss, as well, and if it weren't for her supernatural battles (or really Yosuke), she would be wandering, too. The two bond over the most bizarre circumstances and blossom into a wonderful romance. I enjoyed both performances as the two leads had great chemistry, comedic timing, and dramatic resonance. The mixture of the fantastic and the mundane in Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge has the feel of Magic Realism to it, like Nacho Vigalondo's Timecrimes (2007). The characters accept and recognize the fantastic or supernatural aspects, and when the storyteller blends the two elements successfully, the viewer is able to accept the fantastic elements as well. First-time director, Takuji Kitamura does very well. The story moves seamlessly and is continuously entertaining. He balances the comedy, the action sequences, and the serious drama adeptly. One of the best scenes in the film is the discussion Yosuke has with his teacher in an empty classroom. The teacher opens up to his student in an effort to understand him. The scene comes off as moving and genuine. In another, Yousuke's giving a birthday gift to Eri is quite sweet and tender. Finally, the actual battle scenes are terrific but are truly collateral to the film. I grew up on John Hughes's films, and if you could imagine Weird Science (1985) and its vibe being channeled today, then you would have something like Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Sitting with Charlie Brown is large and in charge.