Decisive Match! Girls Dorm Against Boys Dorm ★★★

31 Days of Sono
Day 3: Decisive Match! Girls Dorm Against Boys Dorm AKA Decisive Match! Boy's Dorm vs Girl's Dorm
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Decisive Match! somehow manages to be simultaneously more straightforward and more abstract than Sono's previous 8mm work. The first half hour is utterly fantastic, and by the end of it I was convinced that he had already found his footing as a filmmaker. Sadly, the rest of the film doesn't live up to it and eventually descends into the under-cooked avant-garde styling of his other early movies.

The final act is nearly indecipherable, though from clues placed throughout the film I can only assume that almost everything in it was the fever dream of a girl (Hiromi) who lost her mind upon being hospitalized and losing contact with her best friend. She hallucinates that her friend is some sort of evil mastermind out to destroy all the dumb boys at her school; to accomplish this goal, the entire girl's dorm (which is like six people) has to enter a marathon they aren't supposed to be part of for some reason. Meanwhile, Hiromi suffers from some sort of PTSD caused by killing her pet goldfish when she first contracted her debilitating illness.

I'm not going to pretend I enjoyed the second half of this. The narrative falls apart so spectacularly that it must be seen to be believed. But man, that first half hour. It's rough, certainly, but it's about as good as a super 8 film can possibly be. It's got all the hallmarks of top shelf Sono, from the storytelling, to the themes, to the characters, to the shot composition. Even once the narrative stops making any sort of sense, the cinematography is just sublime. Sono's excellent usage and development of cinematic imagery was truly born here, and it's worth watching his second feature if only to see what he was able to do with the meager tools he had at his disposal.

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