Recently seen movies #13

January 31, 2008

Afraid to Die (Japan, 1960) – 3,5/5

Yasuzo Masumura’s yakuza film walks the same path as many of Seijun Suzuki’s similarly themed classics. Cult novelist-actor Yukio Mishima, who later ended his life by commiting samurai suicide, plays Takeo Asahina, a gangster who is released from prison and tries to get back into business. Masumura’s film is dark, stylish and hip. The underworld often appears darky humoristic and absurd. Asahina finds it easier to live behind the bars than in the outside world where every dumped girlfriend or old enemy could lead the assassins to your door. The cast is solid, but especially Mishima’s performance as a petty yakuza who doesn’t know how to live honest but isn’t that good at being a gangster either, is spot on.


Kyabare (Japan, 1986) – 3/5

Gangsters and jazz musicians meet in Haruki Kadokawa’s entertaining drama. The film turns too conventional every now and then, but also feels old fashioned and nostalgic in a very pleasing way. The greyish colour palette works well, and jazz tunes slowly become an inseparable part of the film. Hironobu Nomura, who plays the main character, gives a notably better performance than two years earlier in Main Theme. Junko Mihara, Hideo Murota and Takeshi Kaga give good support, but some scenes are weakened by unnecessary cameos. Hiroko Yakushimaru (has one line) and Sonny Chiba (has no lines) are only some of the numerous stars that make an appearance just for the sake of appearance.


No One’s Ark (Japan, 2003) – 4,5/5
Before reaching for the mainstream success with Linda Linda Linda Nobuhiro Yamashita was one of Japan’s most interesting directors. His near-perfect second film No One’s Ark is even better than my previous Yamashita favourite, Realism no yado. The well written storyline of a young couple trying to set up their own business in the early 90’s Japan is simple but engaging. There are several scenes that in the hands of a less talented director could easily turn awkward but Yamashita handles them masterfully. The film is filled with silent humour, and director’s skill with music and visuals create several impressive scenes. The acting is perfect.


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