CONCRETE (2004 JAPAN) D: HIROMU NAKAMURA W: HIROSHI KANNO P: NOBUTSUGU TSUBOMI
In 1988, in the Ayase district of Saitama Ward, just north of Tokyo (and near where I now live) a 17 year-old schoolgirl called Junko Furuta was held captive by a group of teens for over 40 days. She was repeatedly raped, abused, humiliated and beaten until she eventually died from her injuries. The killers dumped her body in an oil drum filled with cement and left it on same waste-ground. Two exploitation roughies were based on the case, SCHOOLGIRL IN CEMENT (1995) and SHONEN NO HANZAI (1997). It wasn't until 2004 (five years after ringleader Jo Kamisaku was released after serving only eight years in a juvenile facility, incidentally) that someone made a serious film that took the horrendous ordeal seriously, and treated it with a modicum of respect. It's based on Joji Atsumi's book on the case, 17-Sai: Akua No Rinrekisho (translation: 17 Years-Old: Chronicle Of Evil). Sosuke Takaoka is very good as Kamisaku, a glue-sniffing bully from a broken home who beats his mother and gives up his honest minimal wage labourer's job to work for the Yakuza. He eventually heads his own gang of wastrels to do dirty work for the higher-ups, and petty crime and gang-rape become a way of life. The girl (Miki Komori) suffers her ordeal within the confines of a nice residential home, with the parents of one of her captors turning a blind eye. If this wasn't a true story, you would have difficulty believing it. Extremely low-budget and shot in a verite style, it manages to side-step the production values by delivering a pretty unflinching (but never gratuitous) cinematic gut-punch. It's a good, important film, but it is not fun to watch. Toshiro Mifune's daughter Mika Mifune plays Takaoka's long-suffering fiancee. It opens with a quote from Gogol. Kanno also co-wrote the SUICIDE MANUAL movies. The notorious guro-manga writer Waita Uziga based one of his gory, pornographic strips on the case. An interesting post-script: In Japan, the real name of juvenile offenders is never released to the press (Kamisaku is an assumed name), so speculation led to over-enthusiastic internet bloggers accusing minor Japanese comedian Smiley Kikuchi of being Kamisaku. This totally groundless rumour spread, and it took ten years (!) for Kikuchi to prove his innocence (with the help of the police). Sometimes this world is fucking horrible.

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