Also showing: Yoshihiko Matsui

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2008, 12:00am

The Noisy Requiem bears all the hallmarks of a classic cult film: directed by Japanese filmmaker Yoshihiko Matsui, the 150-minute production remains the most ambitious of its kind in the history of Japanese underground cinema, but was banned from being shown in film festivals in Japan and abroad when it was released in 1988 due to its controversial content.

The resulting outcry effectively halted Matsui's career as a Japanese auteur until now.

Requiem, shot in black and white, is set in a southern Osaka ghetto and depicts a psychopath's fetishistic love of a mannequin which he stuffs with the entrails of the women he stalks and kills.

While on his murderous spree, he bullies and insults passers-by and manages to hold down a job working for an incestuous midget brother and sister as a sewer cleaner.

Jonathan Hung Ping-man, who chose Requiem to be the closing film for Osaka Weird Sonata - a showcase of lost Japanese indie classics - says the film is like many Osaka indie movies, with a unique plot and great cinematography.

'I was shocked by the topic of the movie. It is set in post-war Japan when people are searching for new direction in the debris,' says Hung. 'It gives audiences a very different experience.' All of Requiem's characters are distressed, alienated, lower-class misfits who are marginalised by mainstream society, Hung adds.

When production began in 1983, it was thought to be impossible to shoot, and even Shuji Terayama, the notorious enfant terrible of avant-garde Japanese theatre and cinema and himself no less controversial a filmmaker, said it 'would be a scandal if it's made into a movie'.

While the cast and location were both hard to secure, many major scenes in the movie - such as when a character dying in a sea of blood - were regarded as impossible to make on a shoestring budget.

The film was only completed - after a three-year production schedule - with the help of an equally determined cast and crew, among them future star filmmakers such as Sogo Ishii (The Crazy Family), Zeze Takahisa (Dog Star) and Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man).

'The Japanese believe in the indie spirit and are very united. Their strong will overcame the limited resources and created very good quality indie films,' says Hung.

The film, completed in 1986, was first released at an art house cinema - Nakano Musashino Hall in Tokyo in May 1988. It was then shown at the movie house once every May until the cinema was shut down in 2004. 'After its completion, there was only one 16mm copy circulating. Many people want to watch it but there have been few opportunities for that,' he says.

Contributing to the film's status as a cult classic is the fact that Matsui has never allowed the film to be released on video. However, the film was digitally remastered last year and has since then been enjoying a new life with screenings in different Japanese cities since last September.

Matsui made his debut directorial work, Rusty Empty Can, in 1979. The film tackles the subject of homosexuality - which was then a taboo in Japan. His second film, Pig-chicken Suicide, in 1981, depicts two Koreans living in Japan and how their love is torn apart because of racial discrimination.

The 51-year-old director has now returned to the fold and finished his first movie after Noisy Requiem last year. The new film, titled Where Are We Going?, and starring Desert Moon's Shuji Kashiwabara, is about a young man who was sexually abused as a child and his encounters with a transsexual. It will be released in Japan next month.

The Noisy Requiem, Sat, 8pm, Agnes b. Cinema, Hong Kong Arts Centre