Friday, June 15, 2012

Virus (1980)

I first watched Virus (aka Fukkatsu No Hi) ages ago on some obscure x-rental I bought for a ridiculous amount of money. To be honest I wasn't that impressed at the time, probably because I was very much into more special effects-drive disaster movies like Earthquake or Meteor and Virus is more or less the opposite of those films. The version I saw was also the short 108 minute cut, edited so stupid westerners around the world would appreciate it more - but when I finally now sat down and watched the original version, in widescreen and with all the lost scenes I understand that I've been missing out a minor masterpiece during all these years. Don't expect an action-adventure or traditional disaster, this is a very Japanese drama with an impressive international cast of character actors.

To recap the story in this movie is just boring, but if you want to know it's about the world being infected by a virus, the Italian flu, who's more or less unstoppable. One country after another is dying and we're following the few survivors, scientists taking shelter on Antarctica. In the White House the president (Glenn Ford) is spending his last days together with his closest friends and foes, a UK submarine and it's captain (Chuck Connors) is travels the seas to find survivors and around the world everyone we love is dying... or killing themselves.

Virus is a nice feel-bad movie, most of the time. Kinji Fukasaku did a couple of big mainstream movies, all of them much less personal and edgy than his smaller movies. But somehow he actually manages to inject a big fat dose of cynicism and darkness in Virus, which makes the already bleak story even darker. It almost borders to parody when a Japanese radio crew (one of them is Sonny Chiba in his only scene) is listening to a eight year old child who commits suicide alone on a boat somewhere or when the nurse takes a small boat and a little surviving boy, feeds him with a deadly pill and drives into the sunset to die. The whole movie is packed with tragedy, no one is spared.

The sense of hopelessness and being abandoned by all kinds of higher forces reminds me of The Submersion of Japan, one of my favourite feel-bad movies ever, but in some way Virus is even bleaker, effectively killing all religions and beliefs in supernatural powers by just showing how reality is. The image of Jesus on the cross, laying on a church floor with the skeleton remains of his former followers is a striking message of atheism. The whole movie breaths "We're all alone and no one is going to save us!" and that's of course the reality. That's how it is. Forget the rapture, prepare to rotten.

The cast is very fine and even notorious rotten actors like Bo Svenson makes it work better than usual. The finest of the bunch is the Japanese cast, not surprising it's a Japanese production, but even Glenn Ford - who during this time often worked with one of his eyes steadly on the paycheck - is really damn good. Others, like George Kennedy (What?! George Kennedy?! In a disaster movie?! I didn't see that one coming!!!!), Edward James Olmos and Henry Silva (Rod Steiger seem to channel his performance in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks) does a good job.

Virus is filled with strong imagery, but I think the final scenes, when Masao Kusakari almost seem like walking back in time, through ancient civilisations, through dead religions, through the past until he reaches his goal, is the most powerful sequence in the whole movie. It's a sign both of a humanitarian view on life, death to religion and maybe even a way to find what we've forgotten and start all over again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Don't expect an action-adventure or traditional disaster, this is a very Japanese drama with an impressive international cast of character actors."

Haven´t seen this one but it sounds intriguing....have you seen Contagion (2011) yet Ninja...?

Pretty bleak for a Hollywood film.

Blindness (2008) is another great lowkey downbeat, virus film.

Kinji Fukasaku was dark....only seen Batoru rowaiaru (2000) so far.