Saturday, September 06, 2008

Detroit Metal City

Detroit Metal City has to be the cutest, sweetest movie about death metal you'll ever see. Soichi Negishi (Ken'ichi Matsuyama, who has been in the Death Note films, along with Linda, Linda, Linda back at the festival in 2005 - is a young man who heads off to college in the city with dreams of becoming a pop star, bringing dreams to people through his music. But shortly after graduating he finds himself tricked into fronting a death metal band, Detroit Metal City, ending up with a psychopathic manager with a penchant for flicking lit cigarettes at people, the brown-nosing bass player, and the drummer with an underwear fetish.

As both songwriter and lead singer Sir Johannes Krauser, Soichi comes up with and performs the most offensive songs imaginable, in sharp contrast from the cloying sweet lyrics of the bouncy pop tunes he writes at home. But one day, in his regular guise, he runs into college crush Yuri, who is now a music journalist and has no idea of his musical alter-ego. What follows is a comic romp as Soichi tries, progressively unsuccessfully, to keep his two lives from bleeding into one another, as the band heads for a showdown with metal god Jack Il Dark (Gene Simmons).

Can Soichi win the girl, realize his pop dreams and escape the world of metal, or is that world a bigger part of him than he will admit?

Detroit Metal City is a hilarious film, even if you're not a fan of metal (or of 'trendy' J-Pop). Soichi's transformation into Sir Krauser is startling to say the least, and watching him try to keep his secret while in character is no end of laughs. Recommended for anyone into more of the cult-side of Japanese cinema.

Director Toshio Lee, star Ken'ichi Matsuyama, and one of the producers were around for a Q&A:

  • Lee said this was the first time he had heard this type of music; he likes rhythm and blues; and music is music - as long as it has a groove, it's fun.
  • Matsuyama said he likes both metal and 'trendy' music, but really likes all kinds of music; his favourites are classical, from animation, and from games. His favourite musician is Joe Hisaishi (who has worked on many Hayao Miyazaki and Takeshi Kitano films).
  • When asked if it was difficult getting Gene Simmons, Lee joked that he's still not sure that actually was Simmons in the film. Simmons was really great, but every time Lee wanted to talk about acting, Simmons wanted to talk about business.
  • Matsuyama said that as he doesn't speak English, he was a bit nervous to work with Simmons, but Simmons was nice, approached him and spoke with him. Simmons told him that he should become a musician, that it's great, he can make a lot of money, and get all the women he wants.
  • Matsuyama said, yes, Simmons did teach him some tricks with the tongue, but it was really Yoshihiko Hosoda that was doing all the tricks
  • They auditioned many people to play the music in the movie, as many top Japanese metal names wanted to be a part.
  • Apparently the guitar being used was a Metallica guitar, and they were excited to have it.
  • TIFF programmer Colin Geddes mentioned how he was at the Fantasia Festival in Montreal and met the director of Tokyo Gore Police, who apparently designed the guitar used by Gene Simmons in the movie. Lee commented that Simmons found the guitar difficult to play because of the size and all the protrusions.
  • Matsuyama said that Soichi didn't have a split personality, he was just one man with two faces, two roles he was playing, so it wasn't difficult to get into character. When he was Krauser, he just attacked everything in front of him. When he was Soichi, he was a real nuisance to everybody, even the kids didn't like him; he just got into that role.
  • Matsuyama said it was difficult to run in Krauser's boots because the heels were really huge, and being a guy he never had the opportunity before. By the end, his ankles were killing him. Lee kept making him run and run.
  • The producer joked that if the film plays throughout North America, he'd look forward to a sequel.
  • The film encompasses the first two volumes of the manga.
  • When asked if DMC will ever tour, Matsuyama said that he has to go back to hell first and check that out.
  • Geddes mentioned that you can find DMC action figures, beach towels, and Krauser costumes on the internet.
  • Matusyama just finished shooting a ninja movie (Kamui gaiden). Lee said he's presenting a number of different projects, but tomorrow he's going to Niagara Falls. He also has a project he's talking about that is part comedy, part horror, and asked Geddes if they'd invite him back for something like that, to which Geddes heartily agreed.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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