Blue Spring (2001)
By: CJ on June 25, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Artsmagic (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 83 minutes
The Movie
Director: Toshiaki Toyoda
Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Hirofumi Arai, Sousuke Takaoka and Yusuke Oshiba
Screenplay: Toshiaki Toyoda (based on a comic by Taiyo Matsumoto)
Country: Japan
AKA: Aoi haru
Toshiaki Toyoda's Blue Spring finds its way to DVD courtesy of those nice folks at Artsmagic. It's a strange little film, but compelling viewing nevertheless.

The story centres around the power struggles and classroom politics of a somewhat bleak Japanese high school. The students are more concerned with the power politics of who is in control amongst their number, rather than gaining any academic prowess. The deciding factor as to who is 'boss' over the students is in the conducting of a dangerous 'clapping' game. This 'game' involves going to the highest level of the school building, standing on the outside of an iron railing fence and clapping without falling. The one who can do the most claps and still manage to grab back onto the iron railing is the winner, and also becomes 'boss'. Disaffected youth Kujo manages to win this 'game' and becomes the new 'boss'. However, his disinterestedness results in some disillusionment within the lower ranks, and his friend Aoki quickly becomes his opponent, vying for the position of power. Things escalate until the ultimate and inevitably tragic climax.

Blue Spring, though brutal at times, is a strangely haunting and beautiful film. Director Toshiaki Toyoda handles the material exceptionally well and is aided by a superb cast, who manage to give their characters real depth and feeling. Ryuhei Matsuda, who plays Kujo, is outstanding, stealing the show in every scene he's in. He makes the role of Kujo his own, imbuing a tangible sense of nihilism and hopelessness into his character.

Sure, Blue Spring is a bleak film, but it's that very factor that makes the whole thing so lyrical and emotive. The violence is never overdone, with much of it happening off-screen, but it's still potent stuff – sometimes less is more, as they say, and this film proves that very point. However, the violence is a part of the fabric of the story, so it needs to be there, to show the utter hopelessness and despair of the situation the characters have found themselves in, and to show their complete amorality and disregard for the rules of ordinary adult society.

I would highly recommend seeking out this film, as I found it to be an amazing viewing experience.
The transfer on this disc is excellent. The colours are vibrant and stable, the blacks were solid, and there were no noticeable compression problems. The transfer is framed at 1.85:1 with anamorphic enhancement and looks very impressive. The subtitles are also well presented and very easy to follow.
The disc is furnished with DD 2.0 Japanese audio track, which does the job perfectly well, with dialogue crisp and clear and the pounding metal score comes over strong and powerful. The music in the film is great, and I love the name of one band that provided a track who call themselves 'The Blondie Plastic Wagon'. Those crazy Easterners!
Extra Features
Artsmagic provide a handful of informative extras. First up are two on-camera interviews with director Toshiaki Toyoda. The first interview he talks about Blue Spring, and in the second he discusses another of his films, PornoStar. He comes across as a very intelligent man and talks freely about his films and his influences, as well as giving his opinions on Japanese society, which is insightful. Next up is a full-length audio commentary by Tom Mes, who really knows his stuff regarding Japanese cinema, which makes this commentary both entertaining and informative. Also provided are filmographies and biographies and an artwork gallery.

Overall it's a very nice package, and Artsmagic are to be commended for the work they have put into this release.
The Verdict
A bleak but powerful film, and yet I found it to be profoundly emotive piece of cinema. It's well worth your time and attention and has definitely become a firm favourite of mine. It won't suit everyone's taste, but if you have any inclination towards eastern cinema, then you'll want to check it out. An excellent film on an excellent disc. Top marks to Artsmagic for this one.
Movie Score
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