The Asia Society's film series Gamblers, Gangsters, and Other Anti-Heroes: The Japanese Yakuza Movie concludes with a screening of Battles Without Honor and Humanity on Thursday, April 17th at 7:00 pm. Directed by the late Kinji Fukasaku (Black Rose Mansion, Battle Royale, and many other great films), this seminal 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.
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.
For anyone interested in owning Battles Without Honor and Humanity, as I've indicated just below the top image, this film is available on DVD from Home Vision Entertainment. It can be purchased separately or as Volume 1 of a box set entitled The Yakuza Papers, which also includes the following four films in the series and a valuable bonus disc.
[The above review appeared in somewhat different form in ACF 084 (March, 10, 2008) in conjunction with a screening of Battles ... the following day at Columbia universtiy.]