Japanese punk-rock action musicals are a hell of a niche market, but Arrow Video have thrown caution to the wind and released the 1982 Sogo Ishii classic Burst City for the first time. The film has been long-lauded as one of the first statements in modern Japanese filmmaking, and has attained a cult status among those in search of a frenetic, dystopian take on corporate greed and the power of community, however that may look.
The story, as such, is told through musical set-pieces, and though there are those who view the movie more as a cultural document of its time, a depiction of a changing Japan and the ensuing class struggle that needed to be recorded, it holds up to remote viewing from almost forty-years’ distance. Ishii’s early films, and especially Burst City, were pivotal in the creation of the Japanese cyberpunk movement, which later birthed Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and although he found more fame in the West than at home, this release stands as a welcome reappraisal of his position in history.
The Arrow Blu-ray comes with several interesting extras, including a new audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, a documentary on the making of the film, and an hour-long interview with the director, titled The Punk Spirit of ’82. Throw in a reversible cover with art by Chris Malborn, and this is a worthy acquisition to your Japanese, punk, or 1980s Blu-ray libraries.
Burst City is one of those films that isn’t for everybody but should be, an explosion of kinetic energy in cinematic form, and is two hours well-spent in an era when our time is so very precious. Japanese punk-rock action musicals? The best kind, mate.