Keiko Kishi

Keiko Kishi

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The Yakuza Review


Good
In 1974, the advertisements for Sidney Pollack's Americanized Japanese gangster movie The Yakuza stated, "A man doesn't forget. A man pays his debts." Well, not in today's economy. But in 1974 paying debts meant something else. It meant honor and obligation and a code of duty among hired killers and thugs. The Japanese yakuza action movie was a staple of Japanese cinema in the 1970s, the films packed with high energy, low budgets, and gratuitous violence. Pollack's westernized version of the genre tamps down the action and examines the yakuza film like an English literature grad student, looking for subtext as characters engage in slow and ponderous dialogues about honor and duty before they erupt and pull out swords and shotguns and turn rooms into abattoirs. Neither a Japanese nor an American action film nor really a philosophical discourse over tea and sushi, The Yakuza doesn't know what it wants to be.

Robert Mitchum plays Harry Kilmer, a retired detective, called back into service by old World War II army pal George Tanner (Brian Keith), who asks for his help in rescuing his daughter, who is being held in Japan by the yakuza. Tanner knows Kilmer is owed a debt of honor by ex-yakuza member Tanaka Ken (Ken Takakura, the big Japanese star of all those '70s yakuza films) and convinces him to travel back to Japan to see if Ken will honor his obligation to Kilmer by infiltrating the yakuza gang holding his daughter and bringing her back home (significantly, the daughter is no more than a unconscious blip on the radar in The Yakuza). Once there, events spin out of control, and Kilmer and Ken become embroiled in ritual obligations and mayhem.

Continue reading: The Yakuza Review

Early Spring Review


Excellent
If you want to know who Yasujiro Ozu was and what he was all about, this is a great place to start. Early Spring is a beautifully crafted distillation of all of Ozu's themes and techniques, a textbook example of what made him Japan's cinematic king of the domestic drama. The film runs long -- 2 hours and 28 minutes -- but it never feels boring, even as it deals with the most mundane of concerns.

Shoji Sugiyama (Ryo Ikebe) lives the bleak life of Tokyo salaryman, slaving away at the Toa Fire-Brick Company in a clerical role and staring out the window with his colleague to marvel at the "340,000" white-shirted office workers they watch scurrying to their jobs. At home, Sugiyama's very patient wife Masako (Chikage Awashima) doesn't mind when her husband spends his down time on company outings, at bars with his co-workers, playing mah-jong, or visiting a sick friend. She rarely joins in the fun, choosing instead to stay home and take care of the skimpy family budget.

Continue reading: Early Spring Review

Kaidan Review


Good
Kaidan is the kind of film that washes over you without much worry for whether or not you're following its story. And considering the movie is based on four simplistic short stories/fairy tales (of Japanese origin -- I do not know how "classic" the stories are in Japanese culture), you probably won't care one whit whether the samurai returns to his true love after divorcing her to marry a rich woman, or whether a woodcutter breaks his promise not to tell other people about a snow spirit.

Continue reading: Kaidan Review

Keiko Kishi

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Early Spring Movie Review

Early Spring Movie Review

If you want to know who Yasujiro Ozu was and what he was all about,...

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