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Venice 2011. Typhoon Fury

Sono Sion’s Himizu, his second film of 2011, is set just after Japan’s devastating natural catastrophe.

Carrying on the fierce and honorable Japanese cinema tradition of the young male existential crisis, Sono Sion's Himizu successfully grafts typhoon destitution and nuclear fallout worries onto a lurching, wildly erratic, funny and blisteringly painful adolescent drama.  Set at a nearly derelict boat rental store left in torpid squaller by two deadbeat parents, the place is lived in and run by their young son, who despite his youthful ambitions to be completely “ordinary” in fact generously donates his land to a handful of miscreants displaced by the storm.  Add to the ragtag group an outrageously outgoing female schoolmate nursing a deluded crush on the boy and we’ve got a secluded but ripe Hawkso-Fordian community enclave.  But while the gang has their hearts in the right place, they uniformly fail to prevent the boy’s mother from leaving, his father from beating him up and trying to take his money, and the local yakuza from stopping by to extract the father’s debt from the son.  Nor indeed are we dealing with any kind of magnetic, charismatic protagonist-leader; the boy’s own sociopathic single-mindedness, general ungratefulness and indifferently piercing stare leaves the group dangerously fragile.

The emotive passion of these characters held in this fragile, combative state of homelessness and ineffective compassion makes the film a powder keg, where cartoonish hysteria keeps people going (punches and slaps are traded so often and with so little consequences they practically become a means of everyday discussion) in an atmosphere where everything is held on the brink something terrible.  While the son’s fiery but relentlessly monotonous depressions and flailings to find a solution or purpose to his life suffers from the one-dimensionality common to this genre of Japanese cinema of alienated men violently being pushed in their life to a breaking point, Sono aggressively engages the mise-en-scène to create a structured but pliable world which can expand out into the city or contract down to explore the boat landing, its porch-like gathering place, and son's house at will.  Himizu could be shorter or even longer, and its sense of space and time that seems to organically take or discard interest in its world makes the filmmaking of this modest, weird genre film directly engage its questioning of livelihood and lives-worth-living.  It never answers how the boy should live or why, but its every frame is utterly wracked with the grim threat of emptiness around everyone, and it answers this world state with enviable energetic frenzy.

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