Now On Blu-ray: TOKYO TRIBE, A Late-Night Mainstay In The Making
Sono Sion has always had an eclectic style of filmmaking, but in recent years he has really hit his stride, both in terms of artistry and quantity of his output. Sono is more prolific now than ever before - he has six projects scheduled for release in 2015 alone - drawing further comparisons to his famously industrious countryman, Miike Takashi.
In recent years, Sono has built an international reputation that has put him at the forefront of Japanese cinema. With offerings as diverse and shocking as Love Exposure, Cold Fish, Himizu and The Land of Hope, Sono has earned himself a strong cult following. 2013's Why Don't You Play in Hell? may have been his most widely seen and praised film yet, and it is this gonzo meta exploration of gangsters, filmmakers and rebellious teens that best-informs the tone of Tokyo Tribe.
Playing out like West Side Story meets Crows: Zero, the film is a two-hour whirlwind tour of Tokyo's various neighbourhoods and the street gangs that rule over them, punctuated by an almost never-ending onscreen rap battle involving practically every character onscreen. Narrated by Sometani Shota's MC Show, Tokyo Tribe is hip to a fault, but also sexy, stylish, ludicrous, crass, garishly designed and damn fine to listen to. Special praise must also be given to Don Brown for his incredible subtitles on the film, which are a work of art in themselves.
In his review from last year's Toronto International Film Festival, our own Jaime Grijalba calls Tokyo Tribe "the best movie of 2014" while adding the disclaimer that he doesn't like hip-hop. Personally, I'm not a big fan of that particular style of music either, and until I watched the hour-long making of documentary that accompanies Eureka! Entertainment's new Blu-ray release of the film, I was completely unaware that a number of the film's supporting cast are legitimate Japanese rap stars, many of whom go by their own names in the film.
Less a structured documentary than simply a fly on the wall during the production, the featurette nevertheless gets to-camera interviews with Sono and a number of cast and crew members, including Sometani, Suzuki Ryohei and Seino Nana. The disc also features the UK theatrical trailer and half a dozen deleted scenes.
Jaime goes on to say in his review:
"The most surprising element of this movie is how much of a musical it is. Sono doesn't lose his style when he's trying to imitate the aesthetics and the needed rhythm that the hip hop culture needs to have. What's also surprising is how the story is based around the songs, yet the source material is a manga that has no attachment to songs in any way."The film is wild in its visual style, with gorgeous cinematography... neon lights, rain and outrageous colorful costumes for every character. The sets are beautifully constructed. So yes, it's without a doubt the biggest budget that Sono has ever had, and it shows in the way that he constructs a world that feels so vivid you could drop right into it."
There is no denying that Tokyo Tribe is an infectious film that rewards repeat viewing and works its way under your skin and into your brain. Perhaps the best environment to watch it is a rowdy midnight screening with a hundred other like-minded audience members, as Sono's latest must rank highly as one of the best party films of recent years. Nevertheless, Eureka's new blu-ray release is destined to become something of a late-night staple, getting plenty of repeat viewing back home, once the pubs and clubs have finally closed.
Tokyo Tribe is released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD by Eureka! Entertainment today.
Jaime Grijalba Gomez contributed to this story.