Late Bloomer DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
DVD released by Bone House Asia
Written and directed by Go Shibata
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 83 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on March 24th, 2009
Masakiyo Sumida as Sumida
Mari Torii as Nobuko
Naozo Horita as Take
Toshhisa Fukunaga as Fukunaga
Sumida is a man who is a pillar of the community. He can be found attending his friend Take's hardcore punk rock concerts, or perhaps teaching and motivating handicapped people at the hospital. He enjoys drinking beer and hanging out with his friends. Sumida has created a system that works for his daily life, but that changes once a new caregiver arrives in the form of a lovely college student named Nobuko. She is spending too much time with Take and has rejected Sumida's advances, which sends him into a murderous rage. Nobody suspects Sumida of the recent crime spree leaving behind a string of random victims. Sumida has cerebral palsy.
Although he has many friends and people who care for him (some literally), Sumida is still an outsider. He is not confined to the chair that helps him travel about town, nor does he suffer a void for companionship. The neighborhood children visit him, and his adult friends include him in a variety of activities. He spends too much time drinking, but is still able to visit and support others who are bedridden. Constant displays of kindness and acceptance are never violated by violent outbursts or hurtful teasing. This makes it even more shocking once the killing spree begins.
Without a single long-haired girl ghost, Late Bloomer is a nice variation on the majority of Asian genre pictures, and is a fine alternative within the horror world as a whole. The slow pacing and subject matter will undoubtedly turn many viewers away, but those who are willing to stick with it are in for a fine treat. The film takes its time establishing a strong set of characters and draws the audience in with a sly confidence. The conclusion is both surprising and quite satisfying, with a wickedly choreographed bit of bad timing that will stay with audiences long after the film is finished.
Director Go Shibata's visual style is immediately forced into jarring life with a series of stark images that are reminiscent of footage from Tetsuo the Iron Man. Working closely with cinematographer Masaaki Takakura, the hallucinogenic visions of our intoxicated anti hero swim across the screen in horrific wonder. The choice to shoot black and white works very well in establishing Sumida's world of light and shadow. The team of three editors (Keita Ichikawa, Keisuke Suzuki and Kazuyoshi Kumakiri) has assembled a nightmarish playground for the character leading to his psychotic break, accentuated by a strong sound design.
The use of practical locations works to create an authenticity to the picture. The majority of the film was shot in Masakiyo Sumida's actual house. The disabled characters are portrayed by disabled actors, and the director is sensitive to the subject matter and treats the material with respect. With so many movies attempting to make their killer as despicable as possible, Late Bloomer is a refreshing entry into the genre that has the ability to offer a unique face on the familiar material.
Video and Audio:
The technical presentation on this dvd is pretty decent despite limited options. The 2-channel Japanese audio is surprisingly efficient. Dialogue is clear and the front surrounds are occasionally used for a successfully hypnotic effect. The track works on its own and I am glad there is not an artificially forced 5.1 track. English subtitles are clear and easy to read.
The picture has a solid 1:78 anamorphic transfer with deep blacks and little if any bleed. The film has a documentary feel in presentation, and any video limitations appear intentional.
The supplements begin with a brief introduction to the film by director Go Shibata. This is followed by a trailer for Late Bloomer and several other titles available from Bone House Asia. The best supplement, however, comes in a series of interviews. Director Shibata reveals some of the behind the scenes difficulties in making the film, and star Masakiyo Sumida discusses his film debut and the similarities he shares with his character. The absence of a proper commentary track is a disappointment, but the interviews are a nice substitute.
The documentary approach is the most disturbing aspect of this movie. There is never a moment where the actors with disabilities are presented in a demeaning manner, nor do they appear to be exploited. This film is clearly a labor of love for the cast and crew, and the end result is well worth the energy that was spent over an exhausting four year production.
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