Bike, Salaryman, Bike!
Noguchi, Sawaki, and Joe race through the streets
Postman Blues / Posutoman Buruzu
Written and directed by Sabu
Japan, 1997, 110 minutes
When: Friday January 28, 2011 at 7:30 PM
Where: Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York, NY
(between 1st and 2nd Avenues)
The second film in Japan Society's retrospective of six works by Sabu is also the second film chronologically of those being screened. Like Monday, which was shown two nights ago, it stars Shinichi Tsutsumi. Here he plays Sawaki, a postman who rides around town on his red bicycle making his deliveries.
When he delivers a letter to Noguchi (Keisuke Horibe) an old school mate who's now a low-level yakuza, he's invited inside. He leaves not knowing that two additional objects have found their way into his mailbag, and police staking out the yakuza's apartment mistake Sawaki intially as a drug runner. Later, and with the aid of a police profiler, they postulate that he's also a murderer, a schizophrenic, and a terrorist!
Meanwhile Sawaki befriends two terminal ill cancer patients. One is Sayoko (Kyoko Toyama), a lovely young woman he's found out about when he reads a letter that she wrote and that he was to have delivered. She provides the romantic interest.
The other cancer patient is a hit man named Joe (Ren Ohsugi). My take is that this is a nod to venerable Japanese actor Jo Shishido, widely known for his role as hit man Goro Hanada in Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill (1967).
Joe wants to win a hit man competition, and there's a terrific reference to an iconic character from a famous Hong Kong art-house film. First we see the character as one of several in a waiting room at the preliminary elimination round. My reaction was, "Wait a minute, is that supposed to be...?" A moment later my suspicion was confirmed as the name of the character in Sabu's film has the name of the actual actress from the Hong Kong film. I won't spoil things here, but will reveal the information at the end of this post for anyone interested.
So we have a lead character who's a victim of mistaken identity, somewhat like Cary Grant's character in Hitchcock's North by Northwest, yakuza, overzealous cops, and two terminally ill characters, one a friend, the other a love interest.
I found the humor in Postman Blues to be much lighter and brighter overall than that of Monday, where the humor was pretty much on the dark side. There's some zany, madcap racing through the streets as Sawaki tries to help his yakuza friend, who's in trouble with his boss, and to make a promised appointment with Sayoko, all the while being trailed by the cops.
While I'm not about to give away the ending, I will say that it's open to interpretation. It might be construed as sad, bittersweet, happy, or any blend the three. Whatever your take on it, I can just about guarantee that you'll find it deeply touching.
While I liked Monday, and rated it 3 out of 4 stars, I really enjoyed Postman Blues. So I'm giving it 3.5 stars, very highly recommended.
For information about Run, Salaryman, Run! A Retrospective of Sabu's Film Works at Japan Society, click here.
And for those interested, here's the spoiler about the Hong Kong film referenced:
There's a would-be hit woman, who's a friend of Joe's, in the waiting room who's dressed just like Brigitte Lin in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, blond wig and all. When it's her turn to compete, the name that's called out is -- are you ready? -- Brigitte Lin!