“My favorite things… My road racer. The world – as I see it from my road racer. Mom’s cooking. Haruka’s chubby face. Daimon’s lousy pictures. Oikawa’s jokes. The nude sketch of Noriko. Her dog – who talked in his sleep. I.W. Harper 101. Faye Wong singing in Mandarin. Zidane’s ball handling. Kusturica’s movies. Tom Waits’ voice. Crispy fried bacon. Donuts without holes. Ice cream that doesn’t make your head hurt. Sea-turtle eggs. Cicadas singing quietly. Fullcolor pandas. Pockets with no bottom. Injections that don’t hurt. Completely empty toothpaste tubes…”
And so the movie ends with a requiem for doomed youth; the protagonist calmly reading out a list of his favourite things via a tape recording as the audience slowly comes to terms with the traumatic end to the story. Yes, 青の炎(The Blue Flame) is exactly that type of movie, the kind that will break you if you take it too seriously.
The Blue Flame tells the story of Kushimori Shuichi, a high school student who meticulously plans for and eventually murders his abusive stepfather. Although it’s an interesting subject to tackle, the film is unfortunately ladened with idiosyncrasies that perhaps not many can appreciate. Adapted from a novel written by someone more famous for their work in fictionalized horror and shot with a cast of young teen idols, at face value, it really doesn’t promise to be anything more than airy-fairy fanservice. Plus, who needs another movie about troubled Japanese youths? But dig hard enough and you’ll be rewarded with your pot of gold. With its sweeping dialogue, beautiful cinematography and great acting (although overshadowed by his more famous hollywood debut, Letters of Iwo Jima, this is definitely Ninomiya Kazunari’s true magnum opus; his performance here is almost iron-clad), The Blue Flame is undoubtedly a buried treasure, just one that doesn’t come with a map.
So, let’s backtrack to the real world a bit as I work my way round the point I want to make.
As the year approaches its end, whether we like it or not, lists start springing out almost everywhere in various forms; “Movies of 2011”, “Best music tracks in 2011” and “Top 10 Justin Bieber moments”, etc etc, you name it.
Why do we need so many lists? Why can’t one authority publish a list of everything on everyone’s behalf and save us all the trouble?
That’s because we like the idea that each list is unique. We like talking about the things we appreciate and we relish how such lists can define us and make us different. However, the irony is, in making one, we inevitably fall into the trap of “You are unique, just like everyone else”.
On the contrary, in the case of The Blue Flame, the movie doesn’t try to make the protagonist more unique by laying out a list of the things he liked; If you are defined by the things you like, then the heartbreaking ending tells us that Shuichi was merely an ordinary kid trapped in difficult circumstances. Out of a generation’s worth of upbringing that insists on the unique specialness of every single person, the film instead pays a weeping tribute to those who were denied a chance to be the same as the rest. It also brings to light a fundamental truth that deep down, nobody wants to be that different.
(Love how the movie starts and ends off with Pink Floyd)
Anyway, I’m sure that the badly burnt Albanian boy (see previous post) can relate to this.
On an ending note, I wish that in 2012, I’ll be in the company of even better literature, film and music. And so will you.