Kichiku Daienkai

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On a tip from reader Alin, I rented the film Kichiku Daienkai (鬼畜大宴会), thinking it would bring me broader perspective on the Japanese student activism of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Gasp. I can only blame my own naivete and lack of pre-viewing review-reading for what I have witnessed.

The first half opens as a somewhat endearing political film, but it slowly descends into a full-out gore flick where heads explode and brains and entrails are things to be played with. I’ll eventually get over the nightmares, but the film’s fatal flaw is that this fictional retelling of the United Red Army saga does not even approximate the horror of the real event. Six revolutionaries kill themselves in bizarre ways! Big deal: The real leaders oversaw the lynching of twelve members and shuffled back to Tokyo when they felt like it.

The film exploits the sex and horror for shock value and ultimately pins the killings on “madness” — the Nagata Hiroko lookalike stumbles around in traditional Japanese dramatic garb after the bloodshed. But the really terrifying thing about the URA is the banality of a student-led Marxist study group extending their ideological practices into murder. Stalin or Mao are a lot more frightening than anything Hollywood could ever imagine, because you can’t blame the occult or the supernatural. Rational bureaucracies led to the deaths of 100s of millions of people.

A trailer for the film can be seen here.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
March 23, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

37 Responses

  1. stanleylieber Says:

    marxy:

    Have you seen the 2003 film THE DREAMERS?

    -sl

  2. marxy Says:

    I don’t think so. I am embarassingly ignorant about Japanese film.

  3. stanleylieber Says:

    marxy:

    It’s a Bernardo Bertolucci film set during the 1968 Paris riots, with an interesting treatment of the Communist elements (this isn’t really the focus of the film, but I found the way it handled student politics, and the question of violence and Maoism interesting).

    I have seen Kichiku Daienkai mentioned elsewhere, with similar criticism, but don’t recall where now.

    -sl

  4. marxy Says:

    Oh right, that Bertolucci film. I know of it, but I haven’t seen it. I was thinking THE DREAMERS sounded like some translated title of a Japanese film I didn’t know.

  5. Momus Says:

    ultimately pins the killings on “madness”

    Funny, I was having this conversation with someone the other day about America and he said nobody would have any problem with America if a lone “madman” hadn’t taken power in 2000…

    Anyway, I agree that “madness” argument is a real cop out. Thank goodness we have people willing to look at deeper structural problems.

  6. marxy Says:

    Well, Momus. I appreciate your sarcasm, and I’m sure it’s quite emotionally fulfilling to bully people. I am happy for you vicariously.

    But you raise an interesting point: calling Bush a “madman” makes it out as if his actions are random. I think his team is working by a very calculated logic. But the logic is not based on reality. A lot of people think Bush has some kind of crazy Christian ulterior motive for Iraq etc., but I think his one guiding philosophy is Kleptocracy: take as much as you can for your “side” while you are in power.

    I don’t think the majority of possible presidents or past presidents have ruled by this doctrine. Reagan was a bastard, but I think he had a more coherent (but ultimately flawed) reasoning for his actions.

    I’d be interested in reading your anti-American screeds when Clinton was in power. I’m sure they’re just as angry.

  7. Momus Says:

    I just want you to play fair, David. Problems are not just deep and structural on one side. You sometimes give that impression, and with your response you’re still giving that impression. Koizumi is also different in style and emphasis from his predecessors, but when you’re looking at Japan you tend to see endemic structural problems. Which is fine, but don’t then get all myopic when you look at the US. One day your homeland is going to need your input, and I really hope it won’t be limited to “Vote Hillary 08”.

  8. Chris_B Says:

    Is this the same momus who spouts fountains of semi coherant pomo pseudo verbiage about the colapse of highs and lows and the lack of need for comparison asking marxy to compare and contrast? Why can’t marxy confine himself to his topics at hand? Inquiring minds want to know.

  9. marxy Says:

    Koizumi is also different in style and emphasis from his predecessors, but when you’re looking at Japan you tend to see endemic structural problems.

    Koizumi’s not that different. He came to power as a reformer and was able to accomplish basically nothing. (There’s always Privitization of the Postal Service!) I think Bush is a totally different creature than what’s usually on the American political circuit. The old Repubs etc. were also assholes, but this new guy’s taken it to a new level.

    America has plenty of structural social problems – obesity, the underclass, energy dependence, wasteful consumerism, etc. – which are described in full detail by every single other news site on the Internet. (You’ve seen the Internet, right?) If you’d like me to be the 1,000,000th uninformed person to talk about Social Security reform, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll stick to my field of relative expertise of Japan. If this blog was a university seminar’s curriculum, then I would understand your complaint. But it’s mostly a forum for debate and ideas and ultimately, entertainment.

  10. stanleylieber Says:

    It’s only ‘bad’ when it’s America, primarily it seems because America is ugly.

    -sl

  11. marxy Says:

    It’s only ‘bad’ when it’s America, primarily it seems because America is ugly.

    Expand on this. I can’t tell who you’re aiming this at.

    I think Momus shares the European snob’s deep disdain of America’s middlebrow and liberal intellectual class. The Postmodern High Art’ers like to embrace Low Art but shiver at the idea of TV and pop music taking ideas from “serious” art and theatre. Momus dislikes (or doesn’t get) The Simpsons for this very reason.

  12. Chris_B Says:

    I hate to decend to y’all’s level here, but I for one am damn proud to be an American. I’m proud of my heritage and my history and I dont gloss over the brutal parts. In fact the experience of living outside the US has increased those feelings and not at the expense of my adopted homeland.

    For all the bitching people do, allow me to say if you are a US citizen and you didnt vote last time or the time before, a big steaming cup of STFU might be in order. If you voted and you didnt get what you want, well its indeed your right to express whatever opinion you may have. Its a birthright for Americans in fact.

    As for the whinging and whining of the uninformed masses that I have to live with daily, I’ve learned to just travel away in my mind to a happy place while they expend their bile to no result whatsover. BTW, dont take that last part personally unless it really does apply to you. I’m talking about what I deal with in “real” life.

    BTW marxy thanks for the post and the link to the trailer even though I’ll probably never watch this movie thanks to you.

  13. Brad Says:

    Since Koizumi has been brought up, I’d like to ask a question. I agree with David’s comment that Koizumi was brought in as a reformer and has been pretty ineffective. How much of this ineffectiveness was present before he was in office and how much has been a result of being in office?

    My take on Koizumi back before he was became PM was that he really had some interesting ideas and unlike anyone before, he was determined to make a change in the status quo. I was excited when he got into office because I felt he really was someone different.

    Obviously, he hasn’t done much. I’m wondering was the whole reformer thing a schtick to get power or did he really think he could make a change, get into office and find out it just wasn’t going to happen?

    (Any pointers to good books or articles I can read to get more info about this? I’ve sort of fallen out of touch with what’s going on politically here.)

  14. marxy Says:

    How much of this ineffectiveness was present before he was in office and how much has been a result of being in office?

    I haven’t read anything definitive, but I get the sense that he couldn’t really beat the system. The bureaucracy and LDP constituency groups are pretty dugged in, and they like the power and wealth the current system supports.

  15. Momus Says:

    The Postmodern High Art’ers like to embrace Low Art but shiver at the idea of TV and pop music taking ideas from “serious” art and theatre. Momus dislikes (or doesn’t get) The Simpsons for this very reason.

    Come on, this is the Momus glove puppet in use again! Have you ever read a published opinion of mine about The Simpsons? I’ve actually compared the show to Shakespeare, you know. That’s pretty high praise. TV and pop music can take all they want from “serious” art and theatre, although I personally won’t be policing that distinction (in an age where the theatre is likely to be hosting Jerry Springer, The Opera).

  16. stanleylieber Says:

    marxy said:

    Expand on this. I can’t tell who you’re aiming this at.

    Sorry marxy, you slipped in there. I was commenting on Momus’ entry, where he said ‘Which is fine, but don’t then get all myopic when you look at the US.’ Good advice!

    Chris_B said:

    I hate to decend to y’all’s level here, but I for one am damn proud to be an American.

    I’m not sure how nationalistically I swing, but I have a great deal of admiration for the Enlightenment values that lead to the founding of my birth country.

    Part of what makes the rabidly pro-Japanese fascination undesirable to me (and I have wanted to live in Japan since I knew what the word meant) is the overdedication to its temporal political particulars, as if they were portable technology that could be plugged in anywhere else; I think this kind of unchecked sentimental attachment to social structures is the very element that perpetuates the decline of civilizations. The noble villager of our dreams is pointing to the food trough and we’re content to run up and lick his finger.

    Conversely, I think one of the most positive aspects of the American experiment is the capability for self-correction.

    I feel sort of like I’ve been injecting off-topic commentary to these threads, so I’ll stop posting as much, but the ongoing discussion here continues to interest me greatly. Hope you all don’t mind if I stick around!

    -sl

  17. Chris_B Says:

    glove puppet? is that like a sock puppet?

  18. marxy Says:

    I feel sort of like I’ve been injecting off-topic commentary to these threads, so I’ll stop posting as much, but the ongoing discussion here continues to interest me greatly. Hope you all don’t mind if I stick around!

    I’m always happy to get comments, even from Momus.

    Conversely, I think one of the most positive aspects of the American experiment is the capability for self-correction.

    Something important to remember is that Japan has never had a real revolution. The Meiji Restoration was a bunch of samurai overthrowing other samurai under the guise of the Emperor regaining power. Japan’s not particularly good about changing course except after a drastic event, which is why the government’s actions in the next decade will be intriguing. They’ve managed to do basically nothing for the last 13 years, so what’s on the horizon?

    I think non-Americans have a hard time understanding the kind of weird Liberal Patriotism that exists – we may hate American actions and policies and politicians, but we love the fundamental ideas. We love America so much that we want Bush out. There’s been a lot of heartbreak these days, but I think there are enough really amazing messianic figures from history that you don’t stop believing that someone will come along and make things right: Lincoln and the Civil War, Johnson fighting for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, Carter and the Camp David Accords, Kennedy working to prevent WWIII. They all screwed up in other ways, but there are certainly times of people doing what’s “right.”

    But I do get why people who aren’t emotionally invested are suspicious of American motives from the start.

  19. Momus Says:

    I found this article very interesting (warning: it’s long):

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/GC19Ad05.html

  20. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Momus said: Have you ever read a published opinion of mine about The Simpsons? I’ve actually compared the show to Shakespeare

    Ha! The other day I was saying to a friend that it was Don Quixote (and didn’t Shakespeare “pakkuri” Cervantes?) all over again. But I don’t have a degree in literature.

    I’m not sure you’re really being used as a sock or glove or whathaveyou puppet. The internet tends to bring people with similar interests together rather effectively.

  21. Chris_B Says:

    I’d say momus would make a wonderful sock puppet.

  22. Momus Says:

    Here are the Principles of the New Associationist Movement, as written by Kojin Karatani:

    http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0105/msg00099.html

    “I think there must be much potential for revolution in Japan. Japan is on the final stage of capitalism, faster than any other country.” Masaki

  23. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    I found this article very interesting (warning: it’s long):

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/GC19Ad05.html

    Quite a good summary of the recent history of the region. One thing he seems to have left out is that the oil on which Japan depends comes in on tankers on a route that runs past Taiwan. Go down to Okinawa and you’ll see a long chain of tankers coming up from the south. Stop that supply chain and Japan will sputter and choke to a stop.
    Then we’ll really know the meaning of slow life.

  24. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Here are the Principles of the New Associationist Movement, as written by Kojin Karatani:

    I think of NAM mainly with nostalgia. I heard it felt apart rather quickly. I used to see their posters all around Hyakumanben. It lasted about a year I think.

    A very touching memory I have of my (now ex-) girlfriend is her excitedly telling me that she saw an advert in one of the alternative health restuarants that she could get a complete computer setup for a few thousand yen, including some sort of internet connection. This could be used to shop for organic produce and ethical, fair trade products to live a more ecological life. It was one of NAM’s schemes that had a couple of volunteers trying to bootstrap the dream. But I don’t think it got very far past the pipe dream stage. I believe this must have been sometime around the summer of 2001.

  25. porandojin Says:

    to all the ‘i’m proud of’ people

    ‘I’m proud of being American’- i must say this kind of line makes me sick- what are you so proud of??? your country since monroe’s doctrine was the same international bully as all the other world game players … and even when you made the constitution there was slavery and killing indians and who knows what else … salem and witches? ;] … anyway- the same about 9/11- there was often asking- why us? what we did? acting like an old virgin- do you have history lessons in highschool? about cia and iran, about the united fruit company, about butchering democracy in latin america, liberia?

    i am really against crap like michael moore, who is not better than bush , all this fake ‘we are cool middle class dudes and the bad guys are those aristocrats’- it doesn’t make america more credible … anyway … what i mean in my funny english is to make you realise you should start being serious and responsible- and stop this ‘i’m proud of’ …. some dignity instead of childish enthusiasm …

  26. Chris_B Says:

    porandojin: there is a difference between pride and arrogance. Dont get me wrong, I’m not a chest thumping “my country right or wrong” redneck. No place is all perfect, but I love my heritage warts and all. If you hate my country or your own, thats your business. Just dont act like wherever you are from is all sqeeky clean.

  27. Momus Says:

    Just dont act like wherever you are from is all sqeeky clean.

    That’s exactly my point to Marxy.

  28. marxy Says:

    Mr. Poland: I’d be happy to have a conversation about CIA complicity in world affairs any time. I’d be on your side. But can’t we be on Carter’s side when he tried to dismantle the CIA?

  29. Stanley Lieber Says:

    porandojin:

    Are you familiar with the works of Thomas Paine?

    I agree that sentimental boosterism for a country can easily exceed the boundaries of rationality, but isn’t that what people are pointing out about Momus and Japan? Or is it that you’re not saying sentimental nationalism itseslf is bad, but only the kind that attaches people to bad countries, like the United States. In the case of Soviet Communism an affinity for Stalin would be acceptable, because really he’s only gotten a bad rap from the victorious authors of history. I’m afraid the distinctions are obscured from me here (watch out for the straw men!).

    I think the ‘all Americans are bad’ view is just as simplistic as the ‘all Japanese are good’ one. At the same time, I think Momus hits on a lot of useful aspects of the Japanese way of life (and you do realize this duality of vision marks me out as ‘one of you’ to the current administrators of my country, right?). I live in a city that is considered my marketers to be ‘typical’ of the Midwestern United States. There are three hundred thousand people here and there is not enough demand to support an independant bookstore, though we are often the first to gain access to new sandwiches at MacDonald’s, or new flavors of salted potato chips and soda pop (if that tells you anything about the role of what Momus calls ‘culture,’ in this place). My own private Hokkaido, without the snow, monkeys or Future University architecture.

    Any place where humans exist develops into a culture. It may not be to the liking of certain observers or participants, but I don’t think it’s productive (or accurate) to pretend there’s an absence of social complexity (or self-awareness) just because you don’t agree with the local mores or find them particularly charming. As any certified Pomo knows, it’s not the source of our materials that is important (re television idiom) but how we recontextualize them into our own personal systems of sigils and cliches. I guarantee that people watching The Simpson’s in this city are probably, in aggregate, taking away a different message than those watching it in, say, NYC.

    I don’t like the city I live in, and I don’t particularly even like this state (Indiana). Nevertheless, I’ve lived here my entire life, and haven’t yet accrued the personal means to leave (if it were within my means, I probably would). I did not vote for Bush, yet at the same time I am not a Communist. I would become an outlaw in the case of a draft, but I recognize that a military response was appropriate to the attacks of 9/11. I am a deep pacifist, but comprehend that my personal choices are not those of my compatriots. I know know my place, which means that I have a voice, but recognize that my voice is not the only voice.

    They say parlimentary government is too confusing, but I think it’s the stunning overchoice of political life in America that truly baffles Europeans and other foreigners. You may look at the ballots and see only two possible selections, but that masks the true rubric of subtle differentiation that marks most actual voters (here I agree that our system seems irretrievably broken; but this situation has arisen before and been turned on its ear by the last-minute emergence of a contrarian party that sweeps government). I agree with marxy that many people don’t seem to understand how you can live in a place you don’t fully support. To that I point out these less-than-ideal Communisms and the whole urge there seems to be for people to defend these monsters (Stalin, et al) that perpetrated the same sort of aggressive destruction that is found so abhorrent in Americans. There seems to be almost no concept of (or respect for) fomenting change through participation, to these individuals. How do you think things get this way in the first place? Someone has to agree to it. When it’s pointed out that the American people are held hostage by interests that persist in spite of public opinion, the spectre of the conspiracy theory is brought up, as if that were an unassailable thoughtstop that should end the conversation. Maybe planned economies, Confucianism, really do clash with Republican Democracy. How in the world do you ever expect things to get better if you reject the notion of plebeian contribution to the intellectual gene pool?

    It is of course obvious that the United States (or its emergent parts) has been party to numerous genocidal tradgedies over the last several centuries. My (and I think, Chris_B’s) contention is that it is difficult to find a developed (or formerly developed) nation where this is not the case. As I said on Momus’ blog yesterday, holocausts are taking place somewhere in the world at any given moment — twas ever thus. I’m not sure we’ve discovered a political system yet which offers realistic prospects of diminishing this unfortunate fact of human organization, but i do know that the genetic tradition of revolution in the United States (if underutilized) provides an alternative to sullen acceptance of the vivisection of Manchurian villagers. Like the French, the Japanese probably would have put Thomas Paine in jail.

    Does this sound like apologism for the United States?

    -sl

  30. Chris_B Says:

    stanley: that was great. thank you.

  31. marxy Says:

    I found this article very interesting (warning: it’s long):

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/GC19Ad05.html

    This is a pretty good article by Chalmers Johnson (a Japanese studies “revisionist”) on the US-Japan vs. China. Although this opinion is not tolerated on my site by the pro-Japan faction, Johnson is pretty anti-neocon, anti-LDP. America is to blame for some of Japan’s pressures for rearmament, but the Right wing here is very happy to oblige.

  32. stanleylieber Says:

    I haven’t read this article yet, but to me the Afghanistan-Iran-Iraq-NorthKorea positioning was obviously an aggressive measure to curb potential Chinese expansion (an American ‘Great Wall’?), almost the moment the words ‘Axis of Evil’ escaped GWB’s lips. The re-arming of Japan takes up the Pacific Rim patrol, balancing the security of Taiwan as an important base for surveillance plane fly-overs (not to mention ocean passage to the Californian coast).

    This is consistent with the pre-9/11 posturing of the intellectuals that have had the ear of the Bush administration throughout his campaigns and presidency. PNAC material throughout the 90s broadcast this strategy against China, even to the point of suggesting that some cataclysmic event would likely need to take place before the American people would assent to the requisite need for a massive influx of new troops.

    Now, I’m off to read.

    -sl

  33. Chris_B Says:

    and for yet another perspective, try this

    Had a marvelous discussion with R tonight. Lots of fun with the blind men describing the elephant.

  34. Stanley Lieber Says:

    Chris_B said:

    and for yet another perspective, try this

    I think you forgot the ‘href=’ part.

    -sl

  35. Alin Says:

    .
    >The film exploits the sex and horror for shock value and ultimately pins the killings on “madness”

    you can say that about just about any movie, holywood or not, but in this case that’s so off the mark i can’t even bother. don’t know where the horror, as in generic ‘horror’, is, not that much sex after all (and the one that is is a whole text in itself) and yes, thoughtfuly planned, meticulously executed violence is the very fabric of the movie.
    the body of the movie. saying it’s exploiting it is like saying it’s exploiting the use of a soundtrack. point is absolutely elsewhere. dissapointing all you got from the movie were sex and ‘the killings’.

    i`ve had enormously rewarding and poignant long discussions around this movie with japanese persons on exactly the stuff that marxy was trying to make sense at the time. didn’t realize he was just looking for statistics

  36. marxy Says:

    i`ve had enormously rewarding and poignant long discussions around this movie with japanese persons on exactly the stuff that marxy was trying to make sense at the time.

    I respect your right to like the film, but I personally hated it from a variety of angles, some historical, some artistic. There’s another film about the URA called “光の雨” which sticks to the real story and is equally dramatic without anyone blowing up a woman’s womb with a shotgun. I talked to a friend immediately after seeing “Kichiku Daienkai” who told me that this was the first film where she had ever asked for her money back.

    I find the real Red Army saga to be pretty sad and extreme, and my question is whether showing someone vomitting pink fluids after being castrated or hearing a brain squirt blood really added anything to the understanding of those events – especially seeing that the gory half of the film has no resemblance to the real story.

  37. Alin Says:

    resemblance to the ‘real story’ is hardly the point when discussing a work of fiction, again i doubt the point of the movie was to tell any story ‘as it happened’.

    i get your point and can surely see how someone would want their money back. blood and guts isn’t my cup of tea either, movies or otherwise. However, as you’d probably agree japanese people , film directors or otherwise, generally tend to not engage in the kind of endless, ultimately narcissistic, (meta)debates and dialectics, like the type carried out on this site (or western academia or the avantguarde whatever). The point, if there is one often tends to be made in a much sharper, more concrete kind of way. Kichikudaienkai simply uses the violence or the pink fluids if you want as a language or as a sort of means, just like you guys use this kind of endless, fruitless sort of argueing on this site here, and it does it in a totally different way to whoever your favourite shlock-horror director may be, to get to some pretty subtle points in the long run – and you’ll find the same thing to various degrees in most of takeshi kitano’s or takashi miike’s films though kichikudaienkai, uncompromisingly, does probably take it to a quite different level. Think merzbow, boredoms etc. as well here..

    Know quite a few people who freak out at japanese movies because “the timing is all wrong”.