Ishii Sogo is what I would call a Rorschach director: he makes films that are often as incomprehensible as those ink blots used in psychological testing, but which can tell a great deal about you by your reaction to them. It follows that Ishii’s films are not enjoyed by everyone, and can be lauded as ‘excellent fun’ or condemned as ‘weird and boring’.
As described in the synopsis, each sequence begins with a chase down an alley. After a little too much wibbly-wobbly camera work, once the sequences get going, there’s plenty to watch. And hear. And be confused about. All in a manner expected by those familiar with Ishii’s work, and surprising to newcomers.
The first sequence starts in a fairly normal way, with our nameless protagonist (Iseya Yusuke) pursued by gangsters down an alley. It’s when he gets spooked by footsteps, picks up an iron bar and whacks his follower that things go rapidly pear-shaped. The expected gangster turns out to be a girl, who performs a neat backflip and lands with a heavy, definitely dead, sound. Damn.
But, she doesn’t stay dead. No, just when our guy is wracked with guilt over ending an innocent life, she starts moving, and rises creakily to her feet in the best traditions of Japanese ghost movies. This tradition is abruptly confounded when she starts singing show tunes.
If you’re looking for traditional narrative structure and complex plot, don’t look to Ishii Sogo. If, however, you’re looking for psychidelic visuals, wild guitar-driven soundtrack, and a plot like a drugged dream, then this is a good place to start.