Summer Vacation: 1999

  • 1990
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

An idyllic countryside provides the picturesque backdrop for this psychosexual Japanese drama concerning four teenage boys left alone for the summer at a boarding school. The boys, all orphans with no one to go home to during their vacation, are at the height of the androgynous, sexually ambiguous stage with which adolescence begins--a murky territory made...read more

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An idyllic countryside provides the picturesque backdrop for this psychosexual Japanese drama concerning four teenage boys left alone for the summer at a boarding school. The boys, all orphans with no one to go home to during their vacation, are at the height of the androgynous, sexually

ambiguous stage with which adolescence begins--a murky territory made even more so by the casting of teenage girls in the roles of the boys.

The film begins with a dramatic nighttime sequence in which Yu (Eri Miyajima), in the throes of unrequited love, dives off a cliff into the rippling waters of the lake below. This fall to death has its desired effect: Kazuhiko (Tomoko Otakara) the object of his affection, can never again ignore

Yu, nor the urgency of Yu's feelings for him. As Kazuhiko says, now Yu will always have a place in his heart. The remaining three boys spend their time in front of their homemade computers, doing endless mathematical problems, and take turns cooking for each other (using such state-of-the-art

equipment as a machine that cracks eggs and separates the insides). This serene, if slightly sterile, world is disturbed by the arrival of Kaoru (also played by Eri Miyajima) the spitting image of Yu. The other boys are understandably upset by the look-alike newcomer, who claims he has arrived

early in preparation for the next term. Kaoru's arrival serves to unearth the layers of forbidden passion and deceit among the boys, who feel that the new boy's presence in the physical form of Yu--though his personality is clearly more outgoing and confident than that of their former

schoolmate--must be a form of intervention by some higher power. It is as if Yu's spirit cannot rest until all of the repressed sexuality and shackled emotions are freed. Slowly, the boys get used to Kaoru. When Kaoru rushes home upon hearing the news of his mother's death, Kazuhiko, by now

smitten, follows Kaoru and spends the night comforting him. However, one of the other boys had already caught Kaoru faking phone calls to his "mother." Kaoru finally admits that he is indeed Yu, and, threatened by a jealous rival for Kazuhiko's affections, makes a lovers' leap with his friend off

the cliff. This time, Yu/Kaoru does not survive, though the other boys manage to rescue Kazuhiko. The film ends as another incarnation of Yu arrives at the school, in a frame-by-frame reenactment of Kaoru's arrival. This time, the boys smile knowingly at this boy who looks like Yu, who grins right

back at them.

Director Shusuke Kaneko has created a visually stylish film, set in a boarding school that, except for the futuristic gadgetry, seems locked in the Victorian era. This sterile, indoor environment is juxtaposed with beautiful photography of the Japanese countryside. But while technically

accomplished, SUMMER VACATION: 1999 lacks the spark that would raise it above the level of a curio. The film seems to be striving for the combined effect of Peter Brook's LORD OF THE FLIES and Peter Weir's PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, but doesn't achieve the power of either of these films. The casting

of teenage girls in the roles of boys initially pays off, but loses some of its clever charm as the story proceeds, when viewers may feel that Kaneko is winking at his audience too much. (Sexual situations.)

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  • Released: 1990
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An idyllic countryside provides the picturesque backdrop for this psychosexual Japanese drama concerning four teenage boys left alone for the summer at a boarding school. The boys, all orphans with no one to go home to during their vacation, are at the hei… (more)

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