Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Graveyard of Honor (Kinji Fukasaku, 1975)

Kinji Fukasaku's 1975 film Graveyard of Honor isn't your usual yakuza film. There's no glorification of the yakuza lifestyle; instead, we get the story of one man who takes it too far. It's more like a Scorcese or other American gangster picture where there are almost always a renegade who feels the consequences of his actions, rather than a Japanese yakuza picture, which usually shows the yakuza as the hero, rebelling against status quo society. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw an American remake one -- Takashi Miike already remade it, and I have read alternating account that it's one of his best or most boring pictures.

We learn, from a lengthy voiceover introduction, that Rikio Ishikawa ran away from home at 15 and joined the Tokyo yakuza. When we first see him, he's an impulsive young man, straight out of juvenile detention, who attacks some small-time yakuza who are operating a shoe-shine business in his gang's territory. His boss tries to warn him that unless someone is a genuine threat, there's no need to attack them and make things worse. But Rikio is impulsive and arrogant, and because he can't keep his temper in check, causes lots of problems for his gang. He's eventually banished from Tokyo for ten years and goes to jail, but when he gets out, things are worse than ever.

Fukasaku, a director of considerable talent (he directed Battle Royale, among others), shows here that he's a visual master. Some of the shots are sideways, and in the fight scenes, it's often hard to get a hold on what's happening. The cinematography is often disorienting, a wonderful look inside of Rikio's head. Even though some of the plot is overdrawn and confusing (why does his gang keep forgiving him?), it's a good movie and well worth a watch, if only to see where modern Japanese directors like Miike got much of their yakuza inspiration.


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