Monday, February 09, 2009

TLA offers curious movie about a Japanese prep school

There is a curious film from Japanese director Kohtaro Terauchi (from TLA Releasing, and Tornado Film, 2009, “Schoolboy Crush” with elements of “Gossip Girl”, “Fatal Attraction,” “If …”, and even my own little screenplay experiment “The Sub’. It’s set in a rich boys’ prep school in Japan, and concerns a student Sora, who had once sold himself as a prostitute to one of the biology teachers, who tends to engage in some metaphorical classroom lessons about genetics and natural history. Manipulations of this little secret ensue, leading to plot complications that concern the other students, while the male teacher seems to stay above water. (The story could have gone in other directions, to be sure; an American/Canadian film with a vaguely similar starting setup, although hetero, is LionsGate/Lifetime’s “Student Seduction” (2003); Canada also has ThinkFilm’s “Whole New Thing" (2006), and Britain has Fox’s “History Boys” (2006)). In one scene Sora and the teacher are hiding under a bed as a proctor comes in the dorm. Sora wants to buy a house in the teacher’s name (a scary request that could sound like blackmail), but for a good reason, it turns out, for the rest of his family. But jealousies and rivalries among the students (especially Ichyio and Akamaki) erupt, leading to more than one tragedy, and then a kind of redemption.

The use of Japanese language is potentially interesting because the language includes elements of social position and hierarchy, which offers strange possibilities probably not apparent to English speaking viewers. The film is very professionally made, but the white-shirt-and-tie atmosphere gives the film a certain slick appearance, with a music score that is sometimes schmaltzy and at other times has a curious 5/4 rhythm. A few of the characters look more Caucasian than Asian. The male teacher does not look significantly older than the students, who in theory should be of late high school age.

Another plot possibility with this sort of setup is to get the teacher into more trouble, but to tell the teacher’s story from the viewpoint of the students, or even parents.

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