RJ Bayley Reviews: Dead Leaves

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I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like director Hiroyuki Imaishi’s anime Dead Leaves, and likely never will again. It’s like he and screenwriter Takeichi Honda have managed to capture in cartoon the ultimate distillation of insanity and mix it with the essence of the ultimate fever dream.

There’s no character work at all beyond the way they look and speak, and that’s absolutely fine, because this is a film with a singular purity in its aim. That aim? To create the craziest visual experience you’ve ever known in a film. And it might just have succeeded.

Dead Leaves sets out its stall early on with the introduction of Pandy, named for the red circle over one eye, and Retro, a man(?) with an old fashioned television set for a head. Within literally moments of them waking up with no memories we are rushed into an incredibly violent, chaotic crime spree by the two which immediately unleashes the furiosity, creativity and madness of the film’s attitude to action scenes. The scene creates a sense of intense movement as single frames seem to be used to move the characters around drastically, allowing them to pull off insane superhuman actions on the one hand, while cramming in as much in-your-face humour as possible with the other – just one case in point being a mid-air fart during a high speed car chase/gunfight.

It would be fatal for most films to play it’s best cards straight away, but Dead Leaves is different, because Dead Leaves doesn’t really stop once it starts. It’s an absolute cacophony of vulgarity and violence from start to finish, with the style never letting up.

Dead Leaves might not be totally engaging, but it is utterly original.

★★★★

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