Late Bloomer (Osoi hito)

Dir: Go Shibata, 2004. Starring: Masakiyo Sumida, Naozo Hotta, Mari Torii. Asian Cinema.
Late Bloomer (Osoi hito)

Picture, if you can, a film with the nightmarish quality of a Harmony Korine movie in Japanese, with a bit more focus on the characters and plot, that is deliberately presented as an avant-garde horror film. Late Bloomer is about as close to that combination as you're ever going to get. Not only is it toxic and arresting like the films of Korine, who I'll admit is one of my favorite directors, but the film is extremely off-putting.

As far as craft goes, it is shot in black and white (needed, I assume, for the eerie quality and mass bloodshed), with out-of-date dissolves and overlapping images that I haven't seen in years. The soundtrack is also jarring, mainly consisting of minimal electronic and death metal.

Sumida (Masakiyo Sumida) is a handicapped man who walks occasionally and transports himself from point to point in a motorized wheelchair. He speaks by touching a voice pad, similar to the spelling toys children used here in the '90s which sound like robots. His best friend Take (Naozô Hotta) is without a physical disability and has a hardcore band, which Sumida loves and enjoys attending their shows. The two are a bizarre match that drink more beer than frat boys and function like two adorable stoner pals.

When not socializing with Take, Sumida roams around the local streets and buys toy soldiers to collect. He works at a home for the mental and physically handicapped where he visits those that are not mobile and tries to help them lead normal social lives. Everything is average for Sumida, who is a bit lonely and seems to be suppressing something deep inside, finding perverse ways to amuse himself. But a new and exciting change has occurred that will alter the lives of everyone he knows. His caretaker has invited her niece Nobuko (Mari Torii) to help out and get first-hand experience out of college as an intern in her field. Sumida quickly falls in love with her and begins to teach her about his way of life. But instead of being alone with her, Take begins to join them on outings until the spiteful Sumida starts to feel like a third wheel. Upset and shaken by her distant affection and lack of romantic interest in him, Sumida snaps and begins committing serial murders to amuse himself.

Everything about this movie is wicked and tasteful. While watching it, I was once again pulled into a new realm of fascination with a part of East Asian culture that I was unaware of, inspiring me to learn more about its social groups and hardcore music. Each shot is literally a sensory overload even though the movie is shot in black and white. At times I was even a bit dizzy, which is fun, I have to say, as this was a sort of roller coaster experience with a bloody climax toward the end. The cinematography was an exhilarating mixture of amateur shots, handheld camcorder, and sharp slow motion violence. The acting was natural and somehow sparked a sense of familiarity with people I knew a long time ago. Overall, this was a thrilling cinematic experience and earned a well-deserved spot in my library of worthwhile serial-killer films. Highly Recommended!

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 22, 2010 5:51pm
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