First off, anyone expecting a rich, straightforward narrative, be warned. This is a document - not a documentary - of the Japanese punk scene in the early '80s, and director Shogo Ishii captures that punk spirit in every aspect of his filmmaking: it's gritty, chaotic, and occasionally disorienting. It's also fantastic.
The story itself - a tale of protest against the nuclear exploitation of a slum city - is interesting enough, but ultimately secondary to the atmosphere and spectacle of the bands and fans that make up the cast of Burst City. Ishii brings the feel of a great punk show to the many crowd scenes, and the feeling bleeds through to the entire film. Ishii's a capable and original director who's inspired countless cult favorites like Tsukamoto and Miike, and watching Burst City, it's easy to see why.
The central band's performances, brought to life by members of seminal Japanese punk acts The Rockers and The Roosters, are thrilling to watch. The real highlights for me, though, were the (literally) show-stealing antics of Michiro Endo and his band The Stalin, who essentially cameo as themselves - a violent, messy, profane and captivating rival band. It's an absolute must-see film for any fans of The Stalin.
The DVD itself is nice enough, with video quality as good as you could reasonably expect from a 1982 punk film. The extras have a good bit of written history on the film and its roots, and a decent photo gallery. Also included is a handful of theatrical trailers, including one for Burst City itself and another for Shogo Ishii's also-excellent Electric Dragon 80000V. There's a little leaflet insert with an interesting extended blurb about Ishii and Burst City, too.
I had to take off a star because, curiously, not all of the dialogue and lyrics are subtitled. There's no real loss to the story or the experience, but it's noticeable; an unfortunate drawback, but it's nice to see this film released stateside at all.
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