The second film of Yoshishige Yoshida (whose first film Good for Nothing was screened yesterday) earns itself the credit by my count of being one that contains the most number of images of a man holding a gun to himself. It's a stark image of being a trigger away from certain death and as part of the plot, goes from unsettling to numbness as the story wore on. I still preferred Good for Nothing, although this film marks a departure from its steady presentation then to one that's more kinetic in following the new lease of life of an unstable man.
The film opens with Takashi Kiguchi (Keiji Sada) in the confines of a toilet, on the verge of making a decision that will change the course of his life since his intent is to shoot himself and end it. As his company had announced its corporate downsizing to ensure some longevity in the immediate future, Kiguchi emerges with a gun to his head, begging the company spokesman like a plea bargain to exchange his life for the rest of his colleagues to keep their jobs. His friend Kanai intervenes at the critical moment, and adverts a tragedy on company premises.
But this widely reported incident catches the ear of Nonaka (Mari Yoshimura), who decides to use Kiguchi then Kanai for her insurance company as its spokespersons, selling the idea that a man who is the epitome of self-sacrifice is beneficial to an insurance company and hawked the idea of creating a PR celebrity for the firm. Kiguchi reluctantly agrees, and Nonaka's campaign to groom him and build his publicity turn out to be a resounding success.
If I may skew the thought that a man who lives by the gun dies by it, then Bloody Thirst (or Blood Thirsty) charts of a man whose new life created by the mass media, also becomes the target of it, or at least the tabloid aspects, where seedier reporters with quaintly any morals will just go about do anything in order to get sensationalized soundbites, or racy – doctored even through entrapment – pictures of such media created celebrities in compromising photographs. After all, scandals sell newspapers and magazines. Yoshida's film touches on both the influence and power of the mainstream media in giving anyone their 15 minutes of fame, and how it can be used to create social icons and memorable images to sell ideas.
However, Kiguchi as the choice of a role model or spokesperson is also called into question, and goes to show how Nonaka's due diligence in ensuring suitability just gets tossed to the wind, in order to quickly milk the growing public sentiments over the man. We always wonder what it takes to be publicly adored, or how role models get created and worshipped before a scandal comes in to destroy credibility. Kiguchi's rise to fame was based on the instability of a man at his wits end, where his relationship with his wife is in the doldrums and his private life just about to fall apart, so we can just about guess the longevity of someone who's rise is based on so much negativity, ready dirt if you will, available to be exposed anytime.
The story also develops the slow and steady growth of a tussle of control and war between the creator and her product, one clearly conscious about wanting to exploit an image and to control her icon, while the other decides to use his new found fame to push through agendas since he's commanding a voice that is heard, and what he thinks is good for the public. Fervent public support puts him into a bubble with the notion that such support exists permanently, something that he'll discover is never the case. Managers of an image and brand come and go, and we know that corporations prefer to keep their distance from losers.
A sidebar plot gave the tabloid reporter and his model friend Yoko (Yuuko Kashiwagi) some legs to carry the film as well, and the fickle exploitative relationships between the characters in the film reinforces how nasty people with an agenda can be, through the use of tools such as blackmail and entrapment, going as far as to bait a man's wife in order to hurt him where it hurts most. I thought it was the lowest of the low to employ such tactics, with an intent to just bring down someone just because.