Friday, October 27, 2006

[Japanese Film Fest] The All-Out Nine - Field of Nightmares (Gyakkyo Nine)

All Out!

After yesterday's relatively boring selection, this sports comedy served up a pleasant surprise. The crowd was larger than I expected for the paid portion of the festival starting from today, and hey, it's not bad that The All-Out Nine was on widescreen at the National Museum Gallery Theatre.

Adapted from manga, The All-Out Nine - Field of Nightmares, set its tone for madcap humour right from the onset, with a big looming black object flying on screen towards Earth, in the spirit of Star Wars. We're introduced to the lead character Toshi Fukutsu (Tetsuji Tamayama), the "All-Out" school's baseball team captain, as he pleads with his principal, in kung-fu fashion, not to shut down the team for its lack of honours.

I'm unsure if the manga carried the same tone in its presentation, but the look and feel of the movie borrowed a huge leaf from Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer (SS), with its wacky crew of sub-par players, in a team called "All-Out" (like SS's town of Pig-Sty), and within the crew, there's always the obligatory pudgy guy and resident babe. In fact, most characters here are cardboard characters, one dimensional and most of the time inserted and appearing just for laughs, like the baseball team coach, whose experience is in Sepak Takraw, and who look and sounds more like a motivational speaker rather than a sports coach. His appearance was damn hilarious, and irrelevant as well.

The running theme through the story is on Adversity, and how, through an indomitable spirit, challenges, no matter how impossible (and they are) can probably be overcome. And these implausible challenges come fast and furious, and at times don't make much sense. Then again, you remember this is a farcical movie anyway, with many moments filled with extreme animation and special effects, making it look very manga like, especially with those gigantic overhanging words of wisdom.

But unlike SS which builds the moments to a crescendo of a finale, The All-Out Nine seemed to be doing it in reverse. It had a brilliant start and middle with your senses assaulted with different humour ranging from verbal to the slapstick, but somehow lost its steam halfway. At some points you know what the filmmakers are going to pull out of the humour hat, but if compared to SS, you'll see without a doubt which one is relatively superior. Somehow the story didn't allow for many opponents to be presented, and the final game was dragged out for too long, with tiring ideas.

Nonetheless, this film is meant to be light and campy, and I feel made a good start to the second half of the festival. More to come tomorrow, with director Ogigami Naoko in attendance for her films Yoshino's Barber Shop and Kamone Diner. If my luck holds, then expect pics and a podcast of sorts!

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