or anyone with delusions that Japanese high
schools are orderly and filled with overly studious teens, "Blue
Spring" is sure to shatter that idea. "Blue Spring" is a
study of teenage nihilism, and while it displays some style and a
memorable performance by the male lead, the film never gets beyond its
comic book origins and eventually devolves into an overwrought and angst
Our hero is Kujo (Ryuhei Matsuda), who wander
aimlessly with his friends doing anything but schoolwork or getting a job.
One of their activities is to hang off the school's roof to see who can
clap the longest. When Kujo manages to last the longest, he's elected
leader of the gang. The only problem is, he doesn't have much taste for
enforcing mob rule, preferring to leave the task to his second in command.
This raises the ire of his emotional best friend and leads to a
neverending set of power plays and rivalries that soon become the daily
norm in school life.
What stands out in "Blue Spring" is the
performance of Ryuhei Matsuda ("Love
Collage") as Kujo. His angelic visage and withdrawn manner
makes him an unlikely gang leader, but he has an intense screen presence
that draws your attention and steals every scene he's in. Of all the
performances in "Blue Spring", his is the one you'll remember
Director Toshiaki Toyoda ("9
Souls"), who adapts the movie from a manga, gives the film
a relatively fast pace as well as some nice visuals, which is especially
true in a striking time-lapse sequence toward the end. Toyoda is also
smart enough to mute the violence, not letting most of the gore show but
letting the audience fear the worst. But he goes overboard in trying to
convey the bleak atmosphere of the film with its misfit students, gang
members dressing like Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix", the use of shadowy lighting, and too many
scenes taking place in the medieval-looking boys room. The film winds up
feeling stylish, but oppressive and overly bleak.
"Blue Spring" has some comic relief that's
much needed, but doesn't show up nearly often enough. As for plot, Toyoda
mishandles things. "Blue Spring" could have been a film on the
scale of a Shakespearean tragedy, but instead it's just a relentlessly
depressing and violent tale of disenfranchised youths. The script tends to
be overwrought and overdone, especially when banging the audience over the
head with the idea that these kids have no plans or hope for the future.
Another annoyance is the blaring rock music that
screams across the film's soundtrack. At first it seems to suit the film,
but midway through it becomes incredibly irritating and detracts from
watching the movie. Musical scores and soundtracks should enhance the
film, not draw attention from it. In "Blue Spring", the
soundtrack seems like it's trying to hijack the movie, and when that
happens the audience is the real victims.
"Blue Spring" does have some positive
attributes, but unfortunately the negative ones overwhelm them. If only
the filmmakers had decided that less was more in terms of bleak atmosphere
and music, they probably could have made a better movie. Fans of Japanese
cinema may like this effort, but most moviegoers won't.