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Out of This World

Original Title
Kono Yo no Soto e
Production Year
Running Time

Chasing the killer of a lawman, a group of assassins fall foul of a group of blackmarket financiers who dispatch their own hitmen to dispose of them.

"In Occupied Japan jazz was the pulse of peace" In World War II Japan, jazz was strictly banned as enemy music. Some musicians defied the taboo, sneaking into closets to listen to beloved records, while others silenced the forbidden riffs in their hearts and volunteered as kamikaze pilots. When the Pacific War finally ended, Japan had been reduced to ashes. U.S. Occupation troops streamed into the conquered nation bringing many things with them: democracy, Coca Cola, and ...
jazz. The Occupation brought this uniquely American music back to Japan with vitality and force.Set against the chaos and hope of the early postwar period, Out of This World tells the story of five young Japanese musicians who exchange their weapons for instruments, seizing the chance to play jazz at American military clubs. There, under the watchful eye of a bemused sergeant, they build a grudging friendship with an angry GI, who is also a gifted sax player.
Director Junji Sakamoto explores an era shaped by war and music through the eyes of these young Japanese musicians as they learn to accept their former enemies as friends and to make America's indigenous music their own.
=Mullan and Shea Whigham join a gifted Japanese ensemble.=
Five of Japan's top young actors portray the Lucky Strikers, the jazz musicians at the center Out of This World. Masato Hagiwara, a Sakamoto regular since Tekken (1990), portrays tenor saxophonist and bandleader Kentaro Hirooka. Fresh from the success of Kurosawa Kiyoshi's Bright Future (2003), Joe Odagiri appears as drummer Shozo Ikeshima. Shunsuke Matsuoka , who established a strong presence with performances in T.R.Y.andUnloved joins the cast as bassist Ichiro Hirayama. Jun Murakami
, known for embodying characters with unique worldviews in films such as Nabbie's Love is pianist Akira Ono. Mitch, a professional trumpeter based in New Orleans, makes his film debut as Hiroyuki Asakawa. These talented young actors are joined by Aki Maeda of Battle Royal , Maki Claude of Brother, Sho Aikawa of Dead or Alive , and Ren Osugi of Hana-bi .
Shea Whigham, who made his debut in Joel Schumacher's Tigerland (2000) and won critical acclaim for his performance in All the Real Girls (2003), plays the GI sax player, Russell. Acclaimed actor/director Peter Mullan joins the cast as Jim, the sergeant who manages the Enlisted Men's Club where the Lucky Strikers perform. Mullan received Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his work on My Name is Joe and won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion as director of The Magdalene Sisters(2002).

=Jazz standards used throughout the film.=
Under Naoki Tachikawa's deft musical direction, Out of This World draws on dozens of famous jazz standards, Mona Lisa, Take the "A" Train, Sentimental Journey, and Danny Boy, weaving their familiar melodies through the richly textured story. Mr. Tachikawa's previous credits include Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern and Hou Hsiao-Hsien's City of Sadness. In developing his screenplay, Sakamoto sought advice from Jiro Uchino, the former producer of the Club Shinchugun concert series, which featured performances by Japanese musicians who had played at Officers' and Enlisted Men's Clubs during the U.S. Occupation. In a tribute to the real life musicians, Out of This World's end credits roll over the documentary footage of the final concert in that series.

It is 1947, two years after Japan's defeat. In Tokyo, a city still emerging from the ruin of war, a group of young musicians gather outside a train station carrying whatever instruments they've been able to scavenge. They want work playing jazz at Occupation clubs, and it's hard to know which they need more, the money or the music. Some of them barely know their instruments, yet they frequent the station day and night, hoping for work.

When the military transport arrives, they clamor for the booking agent's attention eagerly jumping aboard the trucks as he assigns them to Occupation clubs. Among those selected are Hirooka Kentaro (Hagiwara), a former tenor saxophonist with a Japanese Army band; ex-Army band bassist, Hirayama Ichijo, aka-Joe san (Matsuoka); pianist Oono Akira (Murakami); trumpeter Asakawa Hiroyuki (Mitch); and would-be drummer Ikeshima Shozo (Odagiri). Shozo has never actually touched a drum kit in his life, but a gig at a jazz club would earn him unheard of sums and he's thrilled at his luck.

At last, the musicians arrive at an Enlisted Men's Club. It's an exciting place with a jukebox that blares unfamiliar tunes. A buffet in the dressing room overflows with strange provisions; coca-cola, hamburgers and ice cream. The joint mirrors America in all its glory and excess. Overwhelmed by their former enemy's culture and music, Kentaro and the other players name their band after a stylish brand of American cigarettes, the Lucky Strikers.

Their only audience is American soldiers. Not only do they hail from the land of jazz, but they also regard the Japanese with some contempt. The players' jobs hinge on the favor of Irish-American club manager Sgt. Jim O'Brien (Mullan). The booking agent cautions them never to play Danny Boy. Jim's only son Danny died recently, and the song reminds him of the boy.

Russell Reade (Whigham) arrives on base. A young GI who lost a brother in the war, he is bitter towards the Japanese. Plagued by nightmares about killing Japanese, he's a talented tenor sax player who sees the Lucky Strikers as hacks. A tense rivalry develops between Russell and Kentaro, culminating in a confrontation over Danny Boy. The Lucky Strikers are thrown off the base and their personal problems start to interfere with the band. Shozo, whose parents survived the Nagasaki bomb can no longer stomach playing for Americans. Joe-san fights opposition from his brother. Hiroyuki descends into drug addiction. Akira is consumed by the search for his lost brother. The Lucky Strikers dissolve and each goes his own way.

Then tragedy brings them back together when Russell discovers Hiroyuki lying on a bathroom floor, dead of an overdose. As they share memories of Hiroyuki, Russell is transformed. The Lucky Strikers are together again, and this time Russell is with them.

Then war returns. It is 1950 and American soldiers are shipping out to Korea from bases in Japan. When it's Russell's turn, he leaves behind "Out of This World," a song he's written for the band...