THE PRIEST'S CHILDREN (Cert. 15) is billed as a comedy.
Given that it has a happy ending of sorts, then I suppose it is.
Laughs out loud, though, are scarce. In reality, the film strives
to deal with some rather serious matters concerning sexual morality
and the Church.
It takes quite a talent to prevent such a topic getting a little
too solemn at times. This Croatian film is directed by Vinko
Brešan. It doesn't come as a complete surprise that his university
studies included philosophy; for between the pratfalls there's much
to think about.
Coming to this island parish, the hapless new curate Don Fabijan
(Krešimir Mikić) lives far too much under the shadow of beloved
Father Jakov (Zdenko Botic). Tone-deaf Fabijan can't compete with
his mentor's musical talents or his sporting prowess. Even on the
spiritual side of things, a huge queue forms in front of Jakov's
confessional box while Fabijan has to make do with Petar (Niksa
Butijer), someone in a hurry to get back to his newspaper
Under pressure from his wife, he is confessing to selling
contraceptives. This triggers a turning point in Fabijan's career
as he hits on a cunning plan. He will no longer try to emulate the
senior priest, but be his own man. Not only that, but by puncturing
all of Petar's condoms he exalts his penitent into a state of
grace. They also manage to persuade the pharmacist to
substitute the Pill with vitamin tablets.
Petar is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the sexual habits of
his customers. Intercourse is at its highest, he says, during
holidays and before marriage. Naming names, however, proves too
much information for the curate to deal with. What are his moral
responsibilities, knowing what he knows about his parishioners? He
can rejoice at an increased birth rate on this depopulating island,
but several of the pregnancies provoke the Law of Unintended
Consequences, not to mention a few very red faces.
A baby is abandoned at the clergy house. Women are left
destitute by unscrupulous men whom they had consorted with in the
belief that adequate contraception was involved. Infertile couples
flock to the parish, hoping for remedies. Tragedies occur including
revelations of child sexual abuse by clergy. News of this reaches
the Bishop, who arrives in a gigantic yacht. "Tycoon or mafioso?"
one passer-by asks Fabijan. Completely assuming that Fabijan is
sexually active (and unfazed about it), the prelate's only concern
is that it is not with minors.
Krešimir Mikić convincingly manages Fabijan's transition from
naïve curate to sadder but wiser man. In the end, we are left with
the impression that the Roman Catholic Church - clergy and laity -
has quite some way to go in sorting out its attitudes to sex. But
Brešan's film has relevance for all institutions that lay down
rules on this crucial area of human behaviour. Fortunately for all
of us, divine forgiveness lies at the heart of this film.
NOW, here's a genre-bending movie for you. Tokyo Tribe
(Cert. 18) is an all-singing, all-dancing Yakuza street-gangs
action film derived from its manga comic-book origins.
West Side Story, Japanese-style, it certainly isn't.
More A Clockwork Orange, complete with snatches of
Beethoven, as the tribes ferociously battle-rap their way across a
futuristic Tokyo made up of ghettoes and nightclubs.
While the film is likely to be shunned by the squeamish, it does
have some redeeming features. Notably there is Erika (Nana Seino),
the daughter of a priest who remains a shadowy figure throughout
the movie. We know enough about him and his dubious sacrificial
practices to realise that he's up to no good. This is probably the
chief reason that his followers include the vicious gang-leader
Lord Buppa (Riki Takeuchi) and his henchman Mera, played by the
physically imposing Ryôhei Suzuki. The way religion endorses (or at
least lends itself to) violent behaviour is a prevailing motif of
Erika, in pursuit of a better way of living, goes on the run
(under the name of Sunmi) from her blood-thirsty father. She falls
into the hands of Buppa's thugs, who delight in sex and violence as
well as rap music. Fortunately, in true comic-book style, there is
a hero, Kai. And he sings even better songs. That's because the
actor Young Dais is in real life one of Japan's most popular
singers. Kai also heads the Musashino-Saru tribe, one dedicated to
peace and love.
Herein lies the judgement: light has come into the world, but
men prefer darkness. Erika/Sunmi acts in effect as 1 Corinthian
13's Hymn to Love. Her muscular spirituality in tandem with the
combat skills of Kai provide the necessary confrontation with evil
which the narrative demands.
The director Sion Sono has, over many years, compiled a
distinctive frenetic and rebellious output. Here, with obligatory
fast cutting and hand-held camera shots, it looks a tired old
medium. The music is about the only factor different from many
other run of the mill gangsta-type pictures. And, though an element
of "Forgive us our trespasses" supersedes the carnage of turf wars,
it remains a film strictly for cult followers of ultra-violent