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Despite his outrageous mockery of facsist ideology by linking it to the raging hormones of a frustrated male adolescent, Fighting Elegy is the most serious of maverick director Seijun Suzuki's (Gate of Flesh, Youth Of The Beast) delir
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Nanbu Kiroki (Hideki Takahashi) is a typical schoolboy with an extreme reaction to adolescence. Smitten with cute-as-a-button Catholic schoolgirl Michiko (Junko Asano) but repressed by social convention and religious teaching, he finds fighting to be the perfect outlet for his bursting sexuality. Joining a gang of school toughs (whose rule to swear off girls makes him even more conflicted), he soon transforms himself from a shy underclassman to a brazen school tough whose motto is "All school rules must be rebelled against." Leaving Michiko's attempts to tame his savage heart unheeded, Kiroki completes his new identity when, transferred to a rural school, he leads his followers against a militarist gang in a brutal, no-holds-barred battle. Adapted from Takashi Suzuki's novel by fellow director Shindo Kaneto (whose own films include Onibaba and The Island), this satirical jab at the fascist uprisings of 1930s Japan finds the roots of juvenile delinquency in raging hormones (Suzuki's outrageous sexual metaphors suggest Kiroki exists in a perpetual state of arousal). The political and historical references will likely mean little to American viewers (the tape's liner notes help somewhat on this account), but the connection between sexual frustration and ritualistic fighting crosses all cultures. Suzuki's style, while less defiantly rebellious and narratively jagged than in his gangster thrillers, such as Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter, is just as energetic and forceful as his best work in the mix of tough guy clichés, frenzied fighting scenes, and quiet moments of tender beauty. --Sean Axmaker
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