With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, January 30, 2011

ACF 869: Sabu's Non-Stop at Japan Society

Non-Stop a.k.a. DANGAN Runner (c) 1996 Nikkatsu Corporation

Non-Stop / Dangan ranna
(a.k.a DANGAN Runner or D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner)
Written and directed by Sabu
Japan, 1996, 82 minutes

Sabu's debut feature, from which Japan Society's Run, Salaryman, Run: A Retrospective of Sabu's Film Works derives its name, was shown last Saturday night, with an introduction and Q&A with the director. I unfortunately was not able to attend, but I'm certain it was a great evening. And I did get to see the film on a DVD screener, which is the next best thing to having been there.

Tomorowo Taguchi (Tetsuo, The Iron Man, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, and many other films, including others by Sabu) plays Yasuda, a total loser. He can't even keep his job as a lowly kitchen assistant and also has lost his girlfriend. So he plans the perfect bank robbery!

Unfortunately, as he's about to pull it off, he realizes he's forgotten to obtain a mask, so he goes to a nearby convenience store to shoplift one of those white gauze ones. Diamond Yukai (a rock singer in real life) plays Aizawa, the store clerk who catches Taguchi in the act and starts chasing him through the streets. Along the way, they literally bump into Takeda (Shinichi Tsutsumi), a low-level yakuza to whom Aizawa owes money for drugs. Takeda takes off after the duo and an incredible three-man race ensues.

Takeda (Shinichi Tsustusmi) joins the race

Non-Stop has been compared in some ways to the German film Run, Lola, Run. I've seen Lola..., which came out two years after Non-Stop, but it's been quite awhile, so aside from the running through the streets, I can't comment on whatever else the two may have in common.

But I can say that Non-Stop is a fascinating, imaginative, and often very funny film. There's one sequence where each of the three runners imagine having sex with a comely young woman they have passed. Shots of each of the guys are brilliantly intercut with scenes of their make-believe sexual trysts with the damsel, complete with spot-on changes in their breathing as each of them reaches their fantasy climax. Great stuff and hysterical.

I'm not sure why Japan Society is screening the six films in the series in the order they have chosen. Personally I would've preferred a chronological approach (or at least enough lead time so I could have watched the screeners in that order), but no matter. The bottom line is that Non-Stop clearly was an auspicious start to Sabu's directorial efforts, and that his subsequent films -- at least the other three that I've so far watched -- prove that he has made good on this promising beginning.

Non-Stop merits an ACF rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended.

The Sabu retrospective will continue on Wednesday, February 2nd at 7:30 PM with Drive (2002).

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