Time to Gamble… YOUR LIFE

Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in Nagasaki, Travel Volunteer Journey | No Comments
Time to Gamble… YOUR LIFE

Today we felt like a break from all the museums and the history and the real world, so we decided to duck into the cinema. As there will be on screens around the world, American movies dominated the bill here in Nagasaki, but we didn’t fancy any of that, so we opted for a Japanese original, Kaiji 2.

We love Japanese movies that make it overseas – they’re usually written very differently to American films, and as a result are less predictable. The horrors are infamously off-kilter, and terrifying as a result. Sadly, today there weren’t any to see and, this being pre-export, regardless of the genre there was the small issue of there being no subtitles. But we went in with the hope that the art of storytelling and the universal truths of humankind would override such silly notions as language. That, or the film would be so terrible, the plot would be less complex than a colouring-in book.

As the name suggests, Kaiji 2 is the second instalment of a series. While that could have potentially led to a lot of confusion for us, there were a number of flashbacks to the first movie, the events of which had led to our hero being in a sweaty underground jail where toplessness seemed mandatory. With no natural daylight, the men were left with little to do other than gamble. Inexplicably they also have access to colossal amounts of money. Anyway, the hero – who looks a bit like an elf in a dull boy band – won a game of dice, and with it his freedom.

He wasn’t free of the gambling, though, and before long, he was watching people play enormous pachinko machine. There are many names for these beasts around the world: fruit machines, slots, one-armed bandits, puggies… They are the neon cabinets that suck away your coins, your life and your sanity, if you let them. The one in Kaiji 2 is known as The Swamp of Desires, the aim of which is to ultimately get a little gold ball to fall in a hole. It’s a huge machine and requires such vast stakes that people are forced to bet their life savings just to play. They inevitably lost horribly and were dragged off to a fate unknown.

So the hero watched for a while, then someone from the first movie recognised him and he was taken off to endure a bizarre trust exercise in front of a guffawing audience. It was half way between the Running Man and Gladiator. I’m sure there was something about game theory in there, too.

As you might guess, he made it out alive. Were the other punters in the cinema enjoying this? Through the total darkness, it was impossible to tell – the few souls who were to be found in there on a Wednesday afternoon were deadly silent.

With almost an hour of the movie to go, our hero got his seat at The Swamp of Desires. And there he sat playing and almost winning, but not quite, for a very, very long time. When it seemed he was done, he’d find more money for another shot, but still lose. Meanwhile the villain – who had rigged the machine – laughed. A lot. Some of the side characters chipped in more cash so the hero could gamble on. He continued to lose. This went on and on. Gamble, lose, laugh, top-up, go again.

A draining 45 minutes later, as a ball eventually, inevitably, fell into the hole each of the characters got to unleash their best woman-in-labour-giving-it-one-last-push-face. Hooray! Hooray – it’s almost over!

As I sat there in the dark, I couldn’t help think it’d make a better anime than a two-and-a-half hour live action movie. And when I got back to our hotel I discovered that – lo and behold! – it was animated long before the cheap live action was made. Naturally it was a Manga comic before that too, and both formats suit the plot, such as it is, much better than using real, boring actors. Sadly it seems that Japan are following America in this regard: endlessly remaking things that should be left alone, rather than spending the money on new, exciting ideas.

So the good guys won – almost. Right at the film’s end, the script seemed to follow the another American trait with some unnecessary moralising. The hero had vanquished with the villain, but he’d done it through gambling, so couldn’t walk away with a fortune. No, instead they crow-barred an arbitrary plot device with a  fire in his car. So his fortune was lost, and he walked off through the busy city streets, barely a coin to his name, wiser for the experience. Unfortunately, everything seemed set up for third instalment of the series.

We couldn’t get out of there quick enough – it turns out Japanese films are as prone to being junk as in any other part of the world. But we were the only ones who were keen to leave – Japanese film-goers are astonishingly reverent when it comes to film credits, sitting in stony silence while the names of the hundreds of hard working background folk scroll past. I love films and I have a few friends who work in the industry, but I never have the will to sit looking at the names of all the crew. The Japanese punters moved not an inch – and I’m sure the movie hadn’t put them to sleep.

I’m almost certain of that.

今日は博物館や歴史、そして現実からも遠ざかって、映画館に行ってみることにした。映画館は世界中にあり、ハリウッドムービーは世界中で見る事ができる。なので今日は日本の映画、『カイジ2』をあえて選んでみた。

私達は、ハリウッド映画と全く違う日本の映画が大好きだ。どうなるのかが分からないドキドキ感、特にとにかく恐ろしいホラー映画は最高だ。が残念なことに今日は上映中のホラー映画はなかった。ジャンルに関わらず、字幕が無い日本映画を理解するのは難しいかと思ったのだが・・・。言葉は分からなくても楽しめるような、そんな素晴らしい映画である事を願って(もしくは全く楽しめないかどちらかなのだが・・・)映画館に入ることにした。

その映画の名前は『カイジ2』、どうやらシリーズの2作目らしい。ストーリの中にも何度も1作目のストーリーが組み込まれていた。薄暗い地下で人々がひたすらギャンブルをする。そして理由は分からないが、とんでもない額のお金をギャンブルにつぎ込んでいるのだ。で、どうやら主人公は勝負に勝ち、自由を手にしたようだ。

が・・・彼は本当の意味でギャンブルから解放されたわけではなかった。彼は人々がフルーツ・マシーン、スロット、スロットマシーン・・・などと呼ばれ、人々からお金、人生、正気のさたを奪ってゆく、いわゆるパチンコをする姿をずっと見つめていた。小さな金の玉を穴に入れていくそれは、カイジ2の中で“欲望の沼”と言われており、その巨大な機械で、人々が人生をかけてゆく。その結果全てを失い、どん底にまで突き落とされてしまうのだ。

そんな人々を見ている主人公を、シリーズ1からの登場人物が見つけ、馬鹿笑いする聴衆の前に連れて行かれる。それはRunning Man とGladiatorの中間のような光景だった。そしてご想像通り、主人公はそこでも生き残った。このストーリー展開、他の観客は楽しんでいるのだろうか?真っ暗闇の映画館で、それを判断するのは難しかったし、そもそも水曜日の午後、映画館はガラガラだった・・・

映画が始まって1時間経ち、主人公は“欲望の沼”にいた。そして彼はギャンブルをし、勝ち続けているようなのだが、それはとてつもなく長い勝負だった。そして勝負を終えた時、彼は次なる勝負に挑むだけの金を手にするのだが、また負けてしまう。それ見て機械を操作している悪党が笑みを浮かべる。主人公は周りの人からお金を借りて勝負を挑み続け、そして負け続ける。賭ける、負ける、笑う、更に賭ける・・・45分後、玉はついに穴に入り、縛り付けられていた女性労働者を解放する事ができた。

約2時間半を真っ暗な映画館の中で過ごし、私は私ならこれよりもずっと面白いアニメを作る事ができるという思いに駆られ続けていた。そしてホテルに戻り、カイジが映画よりもずっと昔から人気を博しているマンガだったということを知った。確かにあの展開はマンガに適しているだろうけど、実写版の映画には・・・・。どうやらこの点、日本はアメリカの悪いところを真似てしまっているようだ。マンガを映画化する事にお金を無駄遣いするなら、新しい作品を作る事に投資すればよいのに・・・。

最終的に主人公は勝った。映画の終わりに不必要に正当性を説く点にも、アメリカ映画の影響を感じる。主人公は確かに悪党に打ち勝った。しかしそれはギャンブルを通してだ。全てを失くした彼は、混沌とした街を歩いて行った。
明らかにシリーズ3作目を意識した終わりだ。

結論から言うと、映画の詳細まではほとんど理解できなかった。が、どうやら日本映画もそれほどレベルが高いという訳ではなさそうだ・・・。

映画が終わり、席を立とうとしたのだが誰ひとり席を立たない。なんと驚くべきことに、日本人は映画に関わった全ての人や会社が映し出されるクレジットロールをうやうやしく見つめているのだ。私は映画が好きだし、友人の何人かは映画界で仕事をしている。だが今まで一度たりともクレジットロールを見ようと思った事はない。が、ここにいる観客は誰ひとり、一ミリたりとも動かないのだ。
きっとそれだけこの映画が面白かったという事だろう。
私達には分からなかったが、どうやらそういうことらしい。