The film series OUT OF THE ASHES: Early Postwar Japanese Movies continues at Columbia University tomorrow night, Tuesday, March 11, 2008, at 6:00 PM, with a free screening of Battles Without Honor and Humanity. Directed by the late Kinji Fukasaku (Black Rose Mansion, Battle Royale, and many other great films), this 1973 film was the first in a series concerned with the conflicts between and within rival crime families in the Hiroshima area in the years after the end of World War II. Thus it is not an early postwar movie itself, but rather a classic about that period in Japanese history.
The film is of major significance for at least a couple of reasons. Previously films about yakuza were known as ninkyo eiga, or chivalry films. These tended to pivot on the protagonist's conflict between his duties to his crime family and his feelings for an outsider, often a member of another gang with whom he has a special relationship, such as a sworn brother. Here, as the title suggests, there's little chivalry, honor, or humanity. Betrayals run rampant not only between both also within families. Bosses will sell out their underlings and vice versa.