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The film opens in a surrealistic mountain setting as a young, determined
Toshiko (Sie Kohinata), executes a daring escape from her sexually abusive, obsessive
and oppressive, lunatic uncle Sonezaki (Yohachi Shimada). Speeding away down the
road, she notices a man running hastily through the woods, clad in nothing but underwear.
Distracted, she does not notice the car from which he is running...until she collides
with it head-on.
Flash back to before the accident: Samehada (Tadanobu Asano), the virile
robin-hood-esque nemesis of the Yakuza, is interrupted from a hot, chaotic menage-atrois
by a team of professional hitmen hellbent on recovering their stolen loot and
wiping him out in the process. After Samehada is saved by the collision, he thinks fast,
jumps behind the wheel and speeds off with Toshiko, unconscious, riding beside him.
Uncle Sonezaki, realizing Toshiko’s disappearance, hires the gun-crazed mercenary
Yamada (Tatsuya Gasyuin) to hunt down and return her. The Yakuza gang, headed
up by crimelord Sawada (Susumu Terashima), continues on a restless pursuit for
Samehada and thier stolen money. What ensues is a wacky chase that transports the
audience into the comically violent and tragically hip world of bizarre characters.
From the "knife expert" whose personality is that of a straight-laced nine-to-fiver to
the spoiled mafia brat best described as a fashion victim; from a self-described "hitman"
with no history of a hit to the icy, mob-queen that converses with silence and
cigarettes, this ensemble ranks high among those from such films as TRUE
ROMANCE and RESEVOIR DOGS . Turning the classical getaway story on it’s ear,
director Katsuhito Ishii brings a fresh new look to a classical cinema genre.
Among stacks of detailed storyboards and a script in excess of 200 pages,
director Katsuhito Ishii brings his vision of pulp romance and glam action to fruition
with SHARK SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL. After a three years struggle with
rewrites, new storyboards and financial discrepencies, Ishii’s debut feature film finally
began principal photography in December of 1997.
"I gave it everything I’ve got!" said the young, seasoned commercial director.
And the final print is undeniable proof. Not only did Ishii write the screenplay, direct
and edit the film, but he was also responsible for the props, music and even the costume
designs. "I worked very hard during post-production to give my film that unique
visual quality I like to achieve in my commercials. Unfortunately, this [attention] is
something most Japanese films seem to neglect."
On screen, Ishii’s keen eye for detail is immediately recognizable. The colorful
cast are always clad in designer originals, a style known on and off the set at hyper
fashion gear. And actor Tadanobu Asano (SAMEHADA) dons Takeo Kiuchi designer
wear, exclusively, right down to his TK brand underwear. Ishii’s "hands-on" directing
style seems to almost supersede the notion of an autonomous art director. In this film
he personally chose the colors, designs and fabric for each costume, and topped off
the ensemble by matching cars and guns to specific characters--giving a new meaning
to "fashion accessories."
The cast had a terrific time shooting the film. "All the characters are so
bizarre; everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. The set had an atmosphere of fun,"
said Asano. However, it appears nobody enjoyed themselves more than the director
himself. A journalist visiting the set noted that during the more comic scenes Ishii was
always first to laugh outloud. "I love offbeat stuff," he confesses. "I’m hoping SHARK
SKIN MAN AND PEACH HIP GIRL will create a new appreciation for the unusual
with Japanese audiences." How does Ishii envision the experience? "Screening the
movie should almost be like reading a violent and funny manga. But whatever the
audience reaction turns out to be, I hope everyone has a great ride."
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