Kichiku: Banquet Of The Beasts – Review

dvd-kichiku200Kichiku: Banquet Of The Beasts

with Shigeru Bokuda, Sumiko Mikami, Shunsuke Sawada
Directed and Written by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
(Arts Magic DVD)
by Chad Van Wagner

The Japanese do NOT fuck around. Some of the things I admire about the culture are their self reliance, unflinching focus, and ability to handle just about anything.

The plus side of this, cinematically speaking, has been a dynamic adventurousness that I’d put up against any film movement. With all due respect to the European New Waves and Hollywood Golden Ages of the world, nobody but the Japanese could have both Nagisa Oshima AND Yasujiro Ozu working comfortably within its ranks. The minus side is some of the most depraved pornography on the planet, and a fascination with unrelenting sadism.

I’d love to expound on this, really, I would. Because it’d mean I could put off thinking about Kichiku: Banquet of the Beasts. Up until now, the only film I couldn’t make myself finish watching was Passolini’s infamous Salo. Salo was, at least, an attempt by Passolini to make an “indigestible” film, which he did. Not many ways to make the rape, mutilation, and torture of children palatable, after all. Kichiku director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri has no such pretensions, at least as far as I can tell. No, this is a “youth gone bad” flick that has B-movie written all over it, despite some arty bits in the first half. What makes this film so unwatchable is the unflinching, over the top, extended, sadistic gore.

Now, Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) has a few films of this sort of nastiness in his cannon, but he balances the severity with either subtlety (Audition) or complete ridiculousness (Dead Or Alive). Kichiku has a low budget, almost-snuff-film look to it, and well…

I confess. I stopped watching when the one guy had the top half of his head ripped off. Gore I can handle, violence I sometimes find funny, but there’s some sleazy intangible in this film that quite literally turned my stomach. Apparently, by cutting my viewing short, I deprived myself of a rather graphic rape by shotgun penetration. Thank the Lord for small mercies. Whereas the previous “goriest films ever made” were either thinly veiled comedies (Dead Alive) or so relentless they became silly (Ichi the Killer), Kichiku is just plain foul. Even the previous candidate for nastiest Japanese film ever, Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood, has a few moments of (albeit unintentional) levity (for someone who is supposedly getting stomped to death, that girl is trying awfully hard not to giggle).

I’ve seen this referred to as the Japanese I Spit On Your Grave, and I suppose there’s something to that. Kichiku is much worse, however, in that it does actually create it’s own sick, sick world. In some circles, this might make it one of the greatest films ever made. If this sounds like your kind of thing, by all means, go forth and celebrate. Just don’t invite me to the party.