Review for Typhoon Club
This is one to be aware of if you’re ever in a pub quiz, and someone asks the question, “What film about teenagers stuck in school out of hours without adult supervision, with a random dance number thrown in, and with the title ending in the word ‘Club’, came out in the year 1985?” For it turns out that there are two potential answers. I get to review Shinji Somai’s Typhoon Club, now being released in the UK on Blu-ray by Third Window Films as part of the Directors Company collection, and unlike the first two films, this isn’t a horror, which should make it easier for me to watch.
Typhoon Club follows eight middle school students and their teacher over the span of five days, during which a typhoon hits their farming region, leaving six of the students, boys Mikami and Ken, and girls Yukari, Yumi, Michiko and Midori stranded in their school building. Meanwhile Mikami’s neighbour Rie has picked the worst time to run away from home to the big city. And class goofball and eternal victim Akira seems oblivious to the tensions among the main group. As for their teacher Mr Umemiya, he’s got issues of his own to deal with.
Typhoon Club gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc, with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Japanese (I assume mono) with optional translated English subtitles. It’s a decent enough transfer, clear and stable without print damage or signs of age or compression. Colours are warm and consistent, but darker scenes are a little indistinct, and the overall print is a little soft. The audio is fine and clear, and the subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos, although there are no song lyric translations for any of the music in the film, which in a couple of scenes might have connotations for the story.
The disc boots to an animated menu, and you’ll find the following extras...
Assistant Director Koji Enokido Talk Event (27:19)
Introduction by Ryusuke Hamaguchi at the Berlin Film Festival (2:23)
Controlled Chaos Video Essay (15:21)
Tom Mes Audio Commentary
When it comes to teenage coming of age movies, I have a sense that they are most effective when the audience is of an age similar to the film’s characters. I first saw The Breakfast Club as a teenager, and it spoke to me. I loved the film, still do, and have diligently bought it on every format from VHS to Blu-ray. Now when it came to Happy Campers which I saw some ten years later (it isn’t a good movie by the way), I could only relate to the film’s protagonists on a superficial level. I mention the Brad Renfro teen comedy Happy Campers by the way, as Typhoon Club is a cross between The Breakfast Club with its teenagers in school detention, and Happy Campers with its teen angst in the eye of a hurricane. The thing is that I’ve now ‘discovered’ Typhoon Club in middle age. It’s no longer merely the effort of relating to the characters, it’s the challenge of understanding them full stop. I’m at the point where I have little idea as to why the characters in this film did what they did, why they related to each other in such dysfunctional ways.
The film begins with the five girls sneaking into the school swimming pool to have a little dance. Only Akira has already snuck in to have a swim. It takes a little while for them to realise he’s in the pool, and the next thing we know, they’ve gone to get his friends Ken and Mikami to resuscitate him, as it seems they’ve gone too far with their aggressive teasing. That kind of defines the relationships between them, pushing the limits to the breaking point. It seems they need the intensity of these feelings to counter the ennui of living in a farming community, attending what seems like a dead end school.
Mikami attracts all of the girls’ attention, including his neighbour Rei’s but he pays little mind to it, wrapped up in his own melancholy. Ken sees this, and not having any luck with girls is frustrated. He’s frustrated to the point that he takes it out on Michiko, the girl who dotes on Mikami the most. It goes past the usual ‘teasing the girl you like the most’ to outright assault at points. Midori’s in her own world, while Yumi (who’s obsessing about her grandmother’s mortality) and Yukari are the only two that have a physical relationship. And Rei just wants to leave the dead end town. These tensions rise to exploding point in the classroom; not that the teacher, Umemiya has the wherewithal to deal with them, distracted as he is by his own girlfriend’s mother interrupting class, demanding he make an honest woman of her daughter. The scandal’s the biggest thing to hit the town, which causes fists to fly in the classroom.
Then the typhoon hits over the weekend, and six of the students wind up locked in the school when everyone else has evacuated; compelled to deal with their issues head on. Rei didn’t bother turning up to school that day, and instead chose the stormy weekend to run away from home and head to Tokyo.
In the end, I was left wondering if I’m actually too old for Typhoon Club. I needed some kind of hook into the characters, some way to empathise with what they were feeling, but the film left me cold. I know those adolescent years are supposed to be about exploration, about testing those social boundaries, dealing with what feel like primal emotions, but all I wanted to do was to slap some sense into most of these characters. Even the teacher felt woefully juvenile. It made what should have been a crescendo of emotion leading to an evocative conclusion just play out like a farce. If you’re in touch with your inner teenager, you might appreciate Typhoon Club more, but I think for me that boat has sailed. I lack the nostalgia for this film that keeps The Breakfast Club still relevant for me, over 30 years after I first saw it.
Typhoon Club is available from Arrow Films, from Terracotta, and from mainstream retailers.