×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Japan sees ‘Battle’ over pic violence

Film gets rarely used R15 rating

TOKYO — While U.S. politicos fret over screen violence, an upcoming movie that deals with the contentious subject of rebellious, anarchistic high school students is sparking a similar stir in Japan.

“Battle Royale” is skedded to roll out on more than 200 screens on Dec. 16 and has aroused fierce criticism from some quarters — and staunch support from others — after its preem at November’s Tokyo Intl. Film fest.

Helmed by one of Japan’s most respected directors, Fukasaku Kinji, and penned by Fukasaku Kenta, it posits an apocalyptic future in which the country is in a state of collapse, unemployment stands at 15%, schools are marred by uncontrolled violence, and students stage mass boycotts.

In retaliation, the government organizes an annual Battle Royale, in which a randomly chosen class is pitted against itself on an abandoned island in a cruel game of survival. (Think “Survivor” gone to the ultimate extreme.)

It stars Beat Takeshi, one of Japan’s most popular actors, as a former teacher who oversees the battle, which he kicks off by murdering a student.

The movie is rated R15 (no one under age 15 admitted), a classification exhibs say is rarely used in Japan. By contrast, “The Matrix” was released here without any age restriction.

Some critics say “Battle Royale” is ill-timed after a series of violent incidents involving junior high school and high school pupils this year.

In one case, a boy massacred members of the family who lived next door. In another, a student hijacked a bus.

Distrib Toei is trying to downplay the controversy and is counting on the B.O. appeal of both the helmer and Takeshi to draw crowds.

Supporters contend the film is merely depicting a slice of reality. Opponents say that kind of subject matter should not be aired on the bigscreen.

Screen violence is not a major concern in Japan and, indeed, some Tokyo tradesters are bemused about why it’s a hot-button issue in the U.S.

“Japan is more lenient toward (onscreen) violence than sex,” says Ricky Hashimoto, deputy general manager of the international department at distrib Tohokushinsha Film Corp.

Referring to “Battle Royale,” which he hasn’t seen, Hashimoto comments, “There is room for the censorship board (an independent body that administers a voluntary code) to be flexible in accepting that kind of film.”

Similarly, the Japanese Assn. of Commercial Broadcasters is fiercely opposed to government-imposed censorship; hence the nets self-censor.

An informal sampling last week of those who’ve seen “Battle Royale” drew approving comments from young females, but far less enthusiasm from older males.

The general view is that the pic does have violent scenes but they were not regarded as excessive.

Yukio Homma, director of international sales and purchasing at the Toei Co., has just begun to market the film overseas and has not signed any deals yet.

Toei isn’t afraid to tackle violence on the screen, as it bowed “Another Battle,” a gangster pic that is a sequel to the hit “Yakuza,” in Japan on Nov. 23.

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in a Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York City in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. Sylvie (played by Thompson) meets aspiring [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

  • Clark Gable III

    Clark Gable's Grandson, Who Hosted 'Cheaters,' Found Dead at 30

    Clark Gable’s grandson, Clark Gable III, died on Friday morning at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Variety confirmed with the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office. He was 30. “It’s is with an extremely heavy heart we say goodbye to my beautiful son Clark,” his mother wrote on Instagram. “He passed this morning. I will always [...]

  • You Were Never Really Here If

    Film Independent's Spirit Awards Fly the Flag for Indie Film

    As the 2018 awards season marches slowly into its final days, only a handful of honors remain undistributed after some of the most volatile and contentious campaigns in years. Front-runners have come and gone in one major category after the next, as each guild and critics group announced different winners than its predecessors, demolishing expectations [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content