Soredake (That’s It) @ Montreal World Film Festival

soredake2Most of us are familiar with punk rock music, but punk film is another story. Japanese director Gakuryu Ishii has made a name for himself with his maverick style of filmmaking while at the helm of such films as Electric Dragon, Isn’t Anyone Alive? and Flower of Shanidar. After his reputation had fallen somewhat over the past couple of years he signals his return to punk filmmaking with Soredake or That’s It.

Daikoku (Shota Sometani) is a young man who lives on the streets. Abandoned by his abusive father, Daikoku has been forced to live his life like a ghost. A ghost because he does not have any birthright papers to prove who he is. In Japanese society this is like you don’t even exist. Without these papers you cannot buy a house, get married or even die then have a proper burial. Tired of eking out an existence on the street, Daikoku makes the bold move of stealing gold and a hard drive from the locker of thug Ebisu (Kiyohiko Shibukawa).

Once he gains access to the hard drive he finds it contains names of people and their birthright papers. These are very valuable. Daikoku uses the birthright papers as leverage to get from Ebisu the whereabouts of his father. Because of the abuse he suffered at his father’s hand, Daikoku has been dreaming of killing his father to close that chapter of his life. His deal does not go as planned at Daikoku ends up gagged and tied up in a basement. There is a young girl who is also tied up with him. Daikoku lies about where he has put the hard drive and while Ebisu is out looking for it, he and the girl are able to escape.

The girl ends up being past love, Ami (Erina Mizuno), who is now working on the streets as a hooker. But their escape has got them from the frying pan into the fire when they have to deal with two even bigger gangsters wanting the hard drive – Senju (Go Ayano) and Inogami (Jun Murakami). Lives are at risk and there seems to be no way out.

A big part of the film is the cinematography and how it looks. It starts out in an almost black and white or sepia look with plenty of hand held shaky camera moments. This is a signal to its punk nature and the fact that it is going to eschew convention for edginess. Camera angles and colour are elements of the film that are totally thought out here.

Another punk aspect of the film is the score which is made up of punk music done by the group Bloodthirsty Butchers. The vocals come out in a rather hardcore way and the guitars are all screechy. A perfect match for the anger felt by lead character Daikoku.

Much of the last 30 minutes of the film is done in an over the top comic book violence kind of way. Some of the scenes, which are now happening in colour, are interspliced actual comic book storyboards. The pace is frenetic, the violence and bloodshed high and it is tons of fun.

Interesting in a very up and down kind of way, Soredake is a film that will take you on a voyage. A voyage that seems overly long at times whereas at other times you wish it would continue on. Much of the over the topness is on purpose and it is meant to be seen as a comedy for the most part.

The chemistry between Mizuno and Sometani is good and when they have scenes alone together they keep you interest. Mizuno does a good job adding layers to a character that could have just melted into the background being your stereotypical prostitute. What I did want, as I wanted for several other characters in the film, was a little more of a backstory about who they were and how they got to this place. Even without much depth to the characters due to a lack of story it is still compelling because of the acting.

Reading this over you get the idea that I am talking about several different films. One moment comedic, the next totally punk, then comic book action and also a love story at the center of it all. Unconventional in a good way.