Swallowtail Butterfly

1996 [JAPANESE]

Crime / Drama

5
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 3619

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
August 14, 2021 at 06:09 PM

Director

Cast

Yôsuke Eguchi as Ryou Ryanki
Tadanobu Asano as Customer in club
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.33 GB
1192*720
Japanese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
2 hr 27 min
P/S 14 / 25
2.73 GB
1776*1072
Japanese 5.1
NR
23.976 fps
2 hr 27 min
P/S 8 / 22

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by simon_booth 10 / 10

Wow.

I'd seen the name Swallowtail Butterfly mentioned in quite a few places, always favourably. I either didn't know or couldn't remember the slightest thing about it, but decided to pick it up on an expensive whim.

Director Shunji Iwai has done a few movies that don't seem to get seen much in the west, but always draw praise when they do. I will certainly be looking out for his work in future, if Swallowtail Butterfly is a good representation of his talent.

Since I didn't know anything about the movie, and enjoyed it that way, I won't reveal too much. The main background to which the movie is set is the "Yentown". This is either the name that immigrant workers gave to the Japanese city to which they came looking for money, or the name given by the Japanese that rejected them to that class of people. It is also the name of the band that Shunji Iwai recruited for the movie, and the original name of the movie itself in Japan, just to make matters more confusing :)

At the start of the movie we see the corpse of a Chinese Yentown being handed over to the authorities. The other Yentown deny knowing her, and the 16 year old girl looking mournful particularly denies that she might have been her mother. This is untrue, but if nobody claims the body then the state will provide a funeral that her friends and relatives could not afford. The prospect of looking after the girl does not appeal to her mothers friends, so she is handed on from person to person until a prostitute called Glico finally takes pity on her.

The movie expands from this point in gradually widening circles, paced with a precision that would make King Hu proud. It's impossible to place the movie in one genre, but social-realism, coming of age drama, rockumentary and crime thriller all fit one part or another of the 2.5 hour running time. The whole movie is shot on hand-held cameras, sometimes in a dizzying documentary style, sometimes in a tense thriller style, sometimes in a gentle dream-like way. The use of filters and lighting, and a nice grainy film stock, all ensure that it looks wonderful throughout. The soundtrack is similarly wonderful from start to finish - both the orchestral background music of Takeshi Kobayashi and the flat out rock n' roll of The Yentown Band and their wonderful singer Chara (the new love of my life I think!).

The different tones of the movie that follow the shift in genre and the sometimes radical changes of scale that the narrative takes in are all blended skillfully, provoking a wide range of emotional responses. The performances are all excellent, and the characters very interesting and well defined.

In essence, this is basically a masterful film that shows extraodinary skill from Shunji Iwai as a director. Watching it is a reminder of just how far from the potential of the medium most movies fall. I look forward to following his career, wherever it might take him. It's such a shame that a movie that is such a work of art will probably be seen by a tiny audience in the USA, whilst brain-dead Hollywood "blockbusters" pack multiplexes in every town. I guess at least most people will never know what they're missing.

Reviewed by The Truth 9 / 10

Excellent mixture of style and content.

While I'm particularly fond of Japanese films, I must admit quite a few of them are enjoyable only because of their unique style, not because of their actual content. Films like Shark Skin Man And Peach Hip Girl are fun to watch, but that's all there is to them. Yentown (Swallowtail's original title), on the other hand, is a prime example of Japanese cinema at it's finest. Combining music and politics, drama and action, social commentary and humor, art film and popular film, Yentown is a true post-modern experience, rich both in style and in content.

The film takes place in the Tokyo of near future, in a ghetto inhabited by immigrants from all over Asia. The status of immigrants is a touchy subject in Japan, and it has been widely covered in many of the recent Japanese films. What separates Yentown from them is that it uses the ghetto only as a starting point, and although the hardships of the immigrants (and outsiders in general) are a major theme, it is only one of the numerous subjects the film explores.

Basically, Yentown is about dreams. The story revolves around a group of poverty-stricken immigrants, to whom a sudden twist of fate gives the opportunity to literally make money and thus realize their dreams. Unfortunately, their luck is not without it's consequences, and even if they get what they've always dreamed of, they may realize they've chasen the wrong dream. This may not be the most original of ideas, but the story is told with such energy and originality, and with such sympathetic characters, that the viewer soon forgets the familiriaty of the basic plot.

Yentown is a type of film that gets even better on multiple viewings. The story is told in a non-linear way which can make the film seem a bit confusing, at least when seen for the first time. There are elements (and even characters) in Yentown used mainly as metaphors, and to careless viewer it may appear that the film doesn't quite properly tie up it's threads. But if the viewer has the courage and patience to watch a film quite different from our Western tradition, Yentown will reward him/her with an unique blend of emotion, wit and beauty.

Reviewed by obsidian-8 10 / 10

This movie has all you'll ever need

This is really an intense masterpiece. Not only its length of more than 2 1/2 hours, but the carefully developed characters and the twisting story qualify it for a top rank in movie-history. The story itself takes place in the outskirts of Tokyo where a lot of non-japanese people live, looking for the fast Buck (or Yen), for returning home rich. To tell more of the story would be unfair, but be assured it consists of violence, romance, hope and (best of all) the Japanese singer Chara performing "My Way". This is the kind of movie leaving you more than once with a big smile in your face and tears in your eyes, just because this moment is so...I don't know...joyful. Watch it!

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