Dir. Yoshihiko Matsui
Noisy Requiem is set in desolate places. Junk yards. Building rooftops. Red light districts and pachinko parlours. Obscure business offices. Backyard fields of weeds and industrial concrete. Any contact with the wider world, in this independently funded film, taking my steps into the rarely available jishu eiga underground films, is 'stolen' with documentarian capturing of the images without permits. Or distant like there are glass walls and ceilings baring the characters of the film to be noticed. In some cases the outside world runs away from them. It is mostly slum area. Shin Sekai, Osaka, a place of immense homelessness. The entire economic and social ups and downs visible on the locations onscreen like if you could film the council houses here in my own country. There is a violent young man whose only existing love for another, any love to anyone as he may even hate himself, is for a female mannequin, planning to raise a child with her. Going as far as giving her the organs needed from unwilling donors. A man and his very young sister, his care for her beyond convention. A homeless man who drags around a tree stump the shape of the lower half of a woman, perfectly so you wonder if a poor tree nymph was killed and cut up for firewood. A midget brother and sister, who run a sewer cleaning business, she feeling the immense distance from the world and progressing to random acts of destruction in a need she may not even know of. It sounds purposely transgressive. It is trangressive. It breaks so many taboos. It sounds absurd and the Japanese answer to Pink Flamingos (1972) before Takashi Miike's Visitor Q (2001) came to existence. People would dismiss it as another example of weird Japanese cinema, but with only the films to go by themselves, in their own worlds and contexts, many of them are more reflecting and artistically minded than you think.
Noisy Requiem is black and white. Beautiful in its ugliness and ugly in its beauty. Made independently, director Yoshihiko Matsui used the fact he was making a guerrilla movie to his advantage. Handheld cameras move with the dexterity I've only seen in the films of Akio Jissoji. Encapsulated, as the violent young man berates two disabled veterans of World War II, by the cameraman running around the water fountain behind them, on the other side secretly hearing on them and not getting involved, twirling around, thinking better of it, and running back to watch defencelessly as the violent man eventually gets a claw hammer out of his back pocket. Tinny synth doesn't detract from the film, and there is moments of tender piano music to counteract this music choice. To get high, almost eye-of-God shots, someone sat on a roof. Recording in one scene schoolgirls, like the pigeons the young man kills in the beginning, fleeing on mass like running, liquid mercury. A rooftop was set on fire, and the person(s) who hid filming real fireman assess the damage never got caught and managed to get the footage into the film. Independent cinema here is suicidal in its bravery in getting the shots desired. In trying anything. Blurring the lines between fiction and real when it seems characters are hassling real people. It is not a static camera in a room filming dull conversation between the characters no one cares about like in other films.
You are forced to follow characters who have no moral grounding. There is incest. Blood. The desire for another literally consuming. But Matsui is on their side, having called this a film about true love. "True love", such an odd choice of words at first against such nihilistic, taboo breaking material where someone shows their love to another, a mannequin, by licking bird shit off their cheeks. But even if the characters could never be real, at least to a rational, "normal" society, the film is calm, lingeringly slow to the point you follow it carefully. Rationalising this behaviour from the characters' perspectives. Some of it is so twisted its sickly humorous, but you feel pity, then ask if they're the miscreants or if the ordinary public barely seen are worse. The only people from this part of the society, who are sympathetic and aren't faceless, are two schoolgirls in the beginning. One recounts the dream she had which is the central idea of the film, a white dove prevented from getting seeds by pigeons, and turning into a black crow who kills to survive. To live in this film's outskirts, you have to even harm other, and normality itself can be even more grotesque and sadistic, as takes place on a public bus full of bulling, sideshow caricatures. The main characters for all their crimes they commit are trying to rationalise their own existences let alone the one outside theirs.
At two hours, nearly forty minutes, Noisy Requiem becomes trance-like. You stop being offended by the content because you're living through the characters' eyes for so long, the daily rhythms, that you live in their place outside of perceived existence. Switching between characters, the film becomes confusing at times, what actually is happening in reality up for debate, but keeps a consistent and enticing tone. Fantasy eventually breaks through to sit alongside the disgusting, vomit and blood matched by rivers existing on rooftops and a split in time, a split of a body into two, long before Uncle Boonmie Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010) did it too twenty two years later. If the film is depressing, it at least gives you characters to care about. If its vulgar and offensive, it at least lingers on the aftermaths with thought, that causes you to actually feel pain than let the incidents merely pass, as if they were acceptable, as in politer mainstream films. If it's rough, messy in presentation, maybe too long, it at least tried. And trying means more when you see a film like this that feels something. Characters searching for true love. All from an area completely isolated from the rest of the world. The homeless, the lost, the physically and mentally disabled (by birth, by accident or by war), those born with dwarfism, minorities or those to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson are "too weird to live". Pity changes to showing your own hypocrisy. Even if these fictitious characters are miserable, at least they're trying to live. The last image of the film is an extreme close-up of a woman's face. You've seen her wander aimlessness. And the film actually makes you care for her when something else would make her a freak to gawk at or to only pity with a clear distance between you and her. There's no distance in Noisy Requiem.