PATRICK STEPHENSON

Earthbound concerns of an ascendant adult

“Suicide Club”

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OBSCURANT // Suicide Club, the first non-porno from gay porn director Shion Sono, begins within a dim underground subway in Japan. A crowd of skirted schoolgirls—54 of them, all uniformed and smiling—line up on a subway platform, join hands, cheer and then jump onto the tracks just as a train pulls in.

One falls facefirst and, when the train grinds over her clique and reaches her, it plows through her head, which explodes like a bloody melon. The bloodstream from every other girl hoses up onto the platform’s unloaded, screaming passengers while amputated arms and legs catch in the sub’s wheels and halt it. A white purse, whose contents and origins are as yet uncertain, slides into an expanding pool of blood on the platform.

Unfortunately, Suicide Club’s opening scene is one of few in the film worthy of mention. (Another involves a serial-killing glam rocker who stomps on puppies.) Most of the rest of the movie, which is filled with even more violence, plus lame attempts to explain why Japanese teenagers are suddenly so suicidal, is a bore. It knocked me back into a deadened, stupored sleep from which I awoke with a pulsing headache.

I hadn’t expected to be so disappointed. I’d expected to be shocked, maybe traumatized. The movie is, after all, named Suicide Club and it was made in Japan, which releases films unfettered by American coding. Imagine an alternative to Fight Club, one filled with people so tired of life that consensual violence, sans lifelong consequence, no longer appears to be the solution to your disaffection. Suicide, with a smile, is the new solution.

Next, remove that shallow American social commentary and replace it with a veiled and rebellious attack on Japan, a culture still clouded in a mystique created by its distance from our own cultureless country. That’s what Suicide Club should have been. It is instead what it is: a mess of fake-looking gore stranded between scenes that attempt to be both resonant and aware, in that post-mod hipster way, but that fail. On both counts. On all.

Maybe I’m now so desensitized to movie violence that I’m unaffected by what some would say is extreme and have difficulty flinching when I see a dummy head burst. Or maybe the blood in the film looks like syrup, dark red chocolate syrup. What I’d heard from friends beforehand made me think it would be hardcore, that it would pick me up, turn me over and shake change from my cheap and torn jeans.

“Line me up, sucka,” I thought, “as I am also hardcore and I can take what others cannot. I will watch you rip apart arms and legs and as your head explodes I will laugh and say ‘Try again. That was weak and I am not shocked.’” Oh, but how quickly we fall, and not because the movie shot me down or shook me up, but because it didn’t do either and I expected it might.

Ultimately, the film’s message is that we’ve been overexposed to media-borne information, that signals to kill—oneself or others—can be sent through these media unseen. But do I really need to hear another tired argument against television and the Internet, both of which are tying us together in ways that would’ve been unthinkable a century ago? I don’t, so no thanks.

Ironically, that argument is coming from a film, and one of the kind that media watchdogs are trying so eagerly to extract from fragile minds like mine. Yes, my mind is fragile and so is yours, for we are young and haven’t yet been exposed to the realities of the world. Keep us hidden like the Buddha. Someday, we might emerge from under the cover of your protection, healing lepers and starting religions of our own.

Until then, Suicide Club belongs in a discount bin. We’ll burn it to make fire.

Written by patiomensch

March 12, 2007 at 2:17 pm

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