Features Live Action Movies

Typhoon Club
(Taifu Kurabu,

Director – Shinji Somai – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m


A group of teenagers is trapped inside their school by a typhoon – screenings around the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, April 3rd; also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films

A film about teenagers which uses tropical weather conditions – in this instance, an approaching and then all-encompassing typhoon – as a catalyst for exploring character. Its bravura visual style engages from the get-go, with a shot looking across a swimming pool between two ropes of a lane with a child swimmer.

Thursday. A bunch of girls in bathing costumes including Yasuko (Tomoko Aizawa) lark about outside in what is obviously hot and humid weather – one runs through a shallow pool and turns on a water spray to catch the others as they follow, but soon their tomfoolery looks like it may have dire consequences as they all but drown the boy pool swimmer Akira (Toshiyuki Matsunaga). Fortunately, Kyoichi Mikami (Yuichi Mikami), who turns up with his friend Ken (Shigeru Benibayashi) in tow, is able to sort the situation out by administering artificial respiration.

Later, Akira and Mikami, with Ken smoking between the pair of them, hang out on a bamboo scaffolding structure discussing girls, including Yasuko’s lesbian activities with another girl. Asked if he likes Yasuko, Akira confesses he prefers Michiko (idol singer Yuka Onishi in her sole screen role), although Ken warns him that he likes her himself. He has a funny way of showing it; on Friday in class, he comes up behind her, and she arches and howls in pain as if someone had stuck a small blade into the base of her neck. Ken has actually poured acid down her neck; later in the sanatorium, the nurse shows him the girl’s injured back, which will scar her for life. He doesn’t care.

Indeed, on Saturday, when a number of the kids are stranded inside the school premises by the typhoon as it reaches full force, he pursues her with intent to rape, even though he never actually gets that far as a game of cat and mouse ensues, and she eventually locks herself in a classroom where he can’t get at her. That doesn’t stop him violently kicking in the wooden panelling which constitutes part of the room’s lower wall.

Meanwhile, Mikami’s girlfriend Rie (Youki Kudoh from Crazy Family, Sogo Ishii, 1984; Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch, 1989; Heaven’s Burning, Craig Lahiff, 1997) bunks off to Tokyo where he will soon be a student. Caught in the storm, she finds herself taking shelter in the house of a man whose intentions may be less than honourable, and has to find a way of extricating herself.

This means she’s absent when on Saturday, as the typhoon rages, half a dozen of her classmates – including Ken and Michiko, as well as Midori Morisaki (a rare on camera appearance by voice actress Yuriko Fuchizaki from ; Night on the Galactic Railroad, Gisaburo Sugii, 1985; Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo, 1988; Kiki’s Delivery Service, Hayao Miyazaki, 1989) and Kyoichi Mikami – enact an impromptu song and dance routine and strip down to their underwear because of the heat and humidity. They clown around (to the sound of raucous eighties J-Pop) outside the building, which location is unexpectedly dry, possibly because it is currently in the eye of the storm. That doesn’t last; soon it’s bucketing down again outside.

Although this is ostensibly about teenagers, the script finds time for a subplot about their teacher Mr. Umemiya (Tokokazu Miura from House, Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977; Rampo, Rintaro Mayuzumi, Kazuyoshi Okuyama, 1994; Outrage, Takeshi Kitano, 2010; Detective Chinatown 3, Chen Sicheng, 2021; Small, Slow But Steady, Sho Miyake, 2022; Perfect Days, Wim Wenders, 2023) who is in trouble with his girlfriend Junko (Kaori Kobayashi from Dangan Ranna, Sabu, 1996) and her parents (Makoto Sato and Tomiko Ishii, the latter from Gate of Flesh, Seijun Suzuki, 1964).

This involves a large sum of money from him which she gave to another man, and the fact that he’s not yet got round to marrying her. Daughter and parents turn up on the Friday in class to make a scene in front of Umemiya’s students. Late on Saturday, when the kids are stranded and phone him for help, he’s busy reconciling with girlfriend and family and too drunk to do anything about their situation, or even care.

The typhoon itself, although a natural, meteorological phenomenon, functions as another character in the story: an agent of chaos that disrupts the everyday continuity of events to usher in extremes of behaviour among the characters, starting with the opening pool prank that nearly turns into a drowning and working its way through the various strands of the narrative.

There’s always something going on, however minimal, to hold the attention. A combination of inventive blocking and arresting pictorial composition shot by cinematographer Akihiro Ito – the opening swimmer, a girl draping herself over a desk, the three boys hanging out on the bamboo balcony – and bold editing choices from Isao Tomita (not the musician – from Love Hotel, Shinji Somai, 1985) prevent you from taking your eyes off the screen, even for a moment. As a study of teenagers, there’s nothing else quite like it. A simply extraordinary piece of work.

Also in the cast is Shingo Tsurumi from Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Katsuhito Ishii, 1998). Scripted by Yuji Kato (actor in Kids Return, Takeshi Kitano, 1996)

Typhoon Club screens at Cube, Bristol, on Wednesday, April 3rd, plus in the Japanese Film Festival, Ireland on Saturday, April 13th (Galway) and Tuesday, April 16th (Dublin); also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films.


Trailer (Blu-ray unboxing):

Directors’ Company:

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