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Love and social classes tangle dangerously in For Love’s Sake, a delirious if overly long and repetitive high school musical spoof, contaminated with indigenous Japanese genres like anime cartoons and the action film. It would be a reckless leap to call the constant fist fights, coupled with absurd song and dance numbers, a send-up of classical Broadway musicals like West Side Story. Directed by Japan’s one-man film factory Takashi Miike, whose rapidly produced oeuvre has been averaging two releases a year and grabbing much festival attention, this spontaneous genre-bender targets teens and the midnight movie crowd. The fan club will undoubtedly find things to admire here, but it’s not one of his unmissables.
Taking its cue from a period manga by Ikki Kajiwara and Takumi Nagayasu, The Legend of Love and Sincerity, which has already been adapted for film and TV many times, the main story opens and closes with two charming anime sequences that explain how rich girl Ai and poor boy Makoto met as children. The live-action story begins in 1972, when they have grown into very different teenagers. Pretty Ai (Emi Takei) is the daughter of wealth and entitlement, top of her class and an outstanding athlete; Makoto (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a hardened loner from the wrong side of the tracks with a big scar on his forehead and a huge chip on his shoulder.
Early scenes unfold at an elite prep school for children of the bourgeoisie, where Ai convinces her parents to pay for Makoto’s tuition. All tousled hair and attitude, he sticks out like a prickly weed in a perfumed flower garden and is soon expelled, landing in an infernal trade school where male and female gangs rumble under the guidance of their love-sick leaders. Makoto is a one-man army when it comes to fighting and can whip a dozen armed antagonists without incurring more than a scratch. His steely-sad gaze and cool indifference bring two more powerful young women under his spell, the awkward, very funny punk witch Gumko (Sakura Ando) and the beautiful, cold Yuki (Ito Ono), whose internalized issues are a match for Makoto’s.
Ai’s unconditional love is scorned by the object of her affections; she in turn ignores the insufferable prep school boy with glasses Iwashimizu (Takumi Saitoh), who loves her more than life itself. How this unbalanced trio is going to sort itself out, especially with Yuki’s competing bid for Makoto, is left hanging until the end.
The young actors fill their tongue-in-cheek roles with earnest abandon. Satoshi Tsumabuki (Waterboys, Villain) is particularly effective as the deeply scarred outsider Makoto. The very basic choreography and songs look lifted from a high school musical, which may well be the way they were conceived.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), May 21
Production companies: Concept Film, Excellent Film, OLM Production
Cast: Satoshi Tsumabuki, Seishiro Kato, Emi Takei, Yo Hitoto, Takumi Saitoh
Director: Takashi Miike
Screenwriters: Takayuki Takuma, based on a manga by Ikki Kajiwara, Takumi Nagayasu
Producers: Tsutomu Tsuchikawa, Hidehiro Ito, Takayuki Sugisaki, Masamitsu Washizu, Misako Saka, Miharu Yamazaki
Executive producers: Shinichiro Inoue, Yasushi Shiina
Director of photography: Nobuyasu Kita
Production designer: Yuji Hayashida
Editor: Kenji Yamashita
Music: Takeshi Kobayashi
Choreography: Papaya Suzuki
Sales Agent: Kadokawa Shoten Co.
No Rating; 133 minutes.
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