With the final screening of Sion Sono’s yakuza film coming up, it seems like an excellent time to take a look at some classics of WTF yakuza film!
Fudoh: The New Generation (1996) directed by Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike was one of the first directors MM Programmer Colin Geddes brought to Midnight Madness. Riki Fudoh (not to be confused with Riki-Oh) takes over the action at his high school before taking over the whole island of Kyushu. His gang of adolescent assassins cut a swathe through the gangster community. But Riki isn’t just looking for power, he’s looking for revenge.
Branded To Kill (1967) directed by Seijun Suzuki
Jo Shishido is a very peculiar leading man. Deciding he was too blandly handsome, he got cheek implants (since removed) and his career as an antihero took off. In Branded To Kill, Shishido plays, Goro, a hitman given a mission by a mysterious woman. Goro becomes a target when he fails to fulfill his contract. It sounds straightforward, but it’s anything but, as the hitman hunting him psychologically torments him first. The mysterious woman has a thing for dead butterflies. And Goro himself has a fetish for the scent of steaming rice. In short, Sono and Miike didn’t come out of nowhere.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for Suzuki. Tokyo Drifter is an incredibly stylish and stylized portrayal of Tetsuya Watari as a yakuza hitman trying to leave the life. And just try to get the theme song out of your head.
Fukasaku is probably best known now for Battle Royale (2000), and he will always have a special place in my heart for The Green Slime (1968), but he sure made his mark on yakuza movies. In Battles Without Honor Or Humanity is part of a series of five films, The Yakuza Papers. Bunta Sugawara plays a veteran in Post-War Hiroshima whose loyalties are torn when his boss and his sworn brother’s yakuza family feud. and all of the films portray a brutal, highly unromantic view of the yakuza
In Itami’s comedy, a hotel is troubled by yakuza in their lobby, frightening off guests and generally being an intimidating nuisance. They hire Mahiru Inoue, played by Nobuko Miyamoto, who specializes in getting rid of the yakuza. But she doesn’t shoot or stab them, she uses the law and yakuza tradition against them. While the film itself might be seen as mild to non-Japanese people, Itami reportedly was murdered over it.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL Final Screening:
Saturday, Sept 14th, 3:45 PM SCOTIABANK 1
Originally published on the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program blog.