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Original Title:
Survive Style 5+

Japan 2004

Comedy, Drama

Gen Sekiguchi

Tadanobu Asano
Kyoko Koizumi
Shihori Kanjiya
Hiroshi Abe
Vinnie Jones
Reika Hashimoto
Yumi Asou
Ittoku Kishibe
YosiYosi Arakawa
Sonny Chiba

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Survive Style 5+

Story: To summarize the story of "Survive Style 5+" in a at least somewhat satisfying way is something nearly impossible to do. There is no real plot, only some storys, that take turns and are connected with each other in some way or another.
There is an artist, who tries for the umpteenth time to kill his wife, but everytime after burying her out in the forest, she keeps popping up at home again.
Then there is your nearly average Japanese family, who is suddenly confronted with the fact, that the head of family believes that he is a bird, due to an irreversible hypnosis.
Furthermore, there is a female writer of advertisement tv spots, whose ideas always get rejected, and there is a gang of three simpleminded guys, who make a living off nightly burglaries.
These storys are loosely connected by a killer from London, who is searching for the purpose of mankind on this planet, along with his helpful advisor and interpreter...

Review: You seldomly get to see something as abstruse as "Survive Style 5+". To explain what's meant with those words isn't that easy, as you have to see the movie to understand. At first, the story seems just too woozy and you even have to believe that the movie makes no sense at all. But with time there is more and more comprehension and appreciation for the movie. One thing to point out is the movie's way of storytelling as it jumps from one story thread to another. First, this seems to be more or less random, but at some point we realize that there is some sort of pattern behind all of it. The different story threads have some cross-overs every now and then, yet it remains unclear if this all serves any purpose - until the finale.

That director Sekiguchi Gen was himself a former commercials director is very apparent. Bright colors, fast cuts, loud music and exceptional camera angles are only some of his style's features. Fortunately, the movie isn't shot entirely in this way which would have made it hard to follow the movie until the end. Instead the flashy scenes are countervailed by more quite closeups and common camera work.
However, "Survive Style 5+" has its focus definitely on its style. What we get to see here is really an eyecandy. For example there is the house of the artist which is full of bright colors, magnificent and fairy-tale-like statues and furnitures and jarring constructions of rooms and stairs. You nearly believe that you are a part of "Alice in Wonderland". Even the costumes are made in this style. The other sets and locations are also arranged with heart and soul, making them very impressive.

Undoubtedly, the movie is a comedy, but a very queerish at that. This also shows up in the movie's gags. Some situations are just so odd, abstruse, yet they are still somewhat comprehensible, that it is fun to watch them. The movie is more of a caricature. You won't find any "normal" people here. Every one of the main protagonists is drawn very caricaturally and more than once they let you laugh out loud because of their actions.
Apart from Vinnie Jones, who gives a great performance as the hitman, the rest of the cast does also a fine job, for example Tadanobu Asano or Ittoku Kishibe. This is also very important as otherwise the film would have been drifting into ridiculousness. It's not as if the movie isn't ridiculous, anyway, but it is so in a very cool and intended way.

It's the small details, that make the movie something special, especially the eye for details, not only concerning the sets, but also regarding the characteristics of the protagonists. But there are also a lot of other very nice ideas, like the different advertisement spots out of the head of the female writer, that are inserted in the movie every now and then, or the killer, who always keeps asking anyone about his function on this planet.
In the end, there is one question left: Does the movie make any sense at all? In my humble opinion, the movie is about surviving (thus, the title). It's about surviving different situations. It's about being able to overcome even the worst experience. Or simply put: Every day, may it be ever so surreal, eventually ends and we go on living.
Of course, it's also about the question who we are and what purpose we serve on this planet.
However, maybe I'm just stretching a point. It is also possible, that "Survive Style 5+" is so odd and hilarious, that we just want to find a deeper meaning in it...

Sure, the movie has some flaws and it would have been best to cut it down a bit, but on the other hand we can't get enough of the wacky characters and moreover the movie does also know how to please the eye.
Despite all surrealism the director manages to weave a bond between the protagonists and the viewer. Somehow, in a very strange way, everything seems to make sense in the end, even though you will often find yourself asking what the heck is just going on.

Fact is, that it's very unlikely that you've seen a movie like this before and this makes it nearly a must-see. Nevertheless, it might not hit the right notes for everyone, since it will most likely be just too odd for some westerners. It won't hurt to take a look at this little masterpiece, though.
So there is just one question left to be answered now: "What's your function on this planet?"

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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