PANG Ho-Cheung

PANG Ho-Cheung
With Hong Kong director PANG Ho-cheung after interviewing him in 2012

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ACF 932: Three great Yakuza flicks playing at Japan Society today

Japan Society's Globus Film Series Hardest Men in Town: Yakuza Chronicles of Sin, Sex & Violence continues today with three more terrific films.

Cops Vs. Thugs © 1975 Toei Co., Ltd.

Cops Vs. Thugs
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
With Bunta Sugawara, Seizo Fukumoto, Reiko Ike,
Nobuo Kaneko, and Yoko Koizumi
1975, 100 minutes, 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation
Sunday, March 13, 3:15 PM
Buy tickets online

"Fukasaku at the peak of his powers."--Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp, The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Cinema

With this film, which has all the grunting doggedness of the real thing, Fukasaku puts the spotlight on the forces of grand corruption and the ferocious business of butting heads with the law. 1963: The Kurashima City police have spent the past seven years eradicating the yakuza gangs, at the root of much mayhem. The last two remaining gangs, Ohara and Kawade, are in tatters, with the Ohara boss in prison. But with the police force full of corrupt officers, the gangs begin to prosper once again. Soon it's not only Cops vs. Thugs, but Thugs vs. Thugs and Cops vs. Cops. With genre supremo Bunta Sugawara as a police detective who makes Dirty harry look like a rent-a-cop.

Battle without Honor and Humanity (Pt. 3): Proxy War © 1973 Toei Co., Ltd.

Battle without Honor and Humanity (Pt. 3): Proxy War
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
With Bunta Sugawara, Akira Kobayashi, Tsunehiko Watase,
Shingo Yamashiro, Reiko Ike, and Nobuo Kaneko
1973, 91 minutes, 35 mm, color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Sunday, March 13, 5:30 PM
Buy tickets online

The centerpiece of the five-film postwar yakuza arch-epic/classic is almost impossibly alert to the constant transactions of power within the unrepentantly violent world of Hiroshima gangsters. Inspired by real-life events, these Battles breathlessly accumulates unabashed close-ups of bloodletting and wounded bodies flying left and right, front and back. The film has the most treacherous plot of the lot--plotting, counter-plottings, alliances and betrayals will leave viewers dizzy and with only one certainty, that of violence; by fair means or foul, mostly foul, we are led into battle and bloody murders, with jitsuroku ("docudrama"-style) star Bunta Sugawara at the center of it. This is your chance to witness Japanese gangster violence in all its seedy, futile but spectacular glory.

Youth of the Beast © Nikkatsu Corporation

Youth of the Beast
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
With Joe Shishido, Misako Watanabe, Tamio Kawaji,
Ichiro Kijima, and Mizuho Suzuki
1963, 92 minutes, 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles
Sunday, March 13, 7:30 PM
Buy tickets online

Seijun Suzuki's breakthrough film is faster, rougher and wilder than most of his other outings (except perhaps the outrageously off-the-wall Branded to Kill). Raw, rugged and tumbling out of nowhere, Jo (Joe Shishido, a frequent leading man in Suzuki's films) wants employment and wants it now. Closer in temperament to a human lava flow, he's not about to let little things like a bunch of big, bulky brawlers get in the way. He barges into the headquarters of a notorious yakuza organization and there he proceeds to beat the living daylights out of the goons, points a gun at the boss and politely asks for a job. The boss is impressed and puts him on the payroll. Jo then heads over to the rival faction's gang... Repeat. In other words, all-out gang war is around the corner. This early Seijun Suzuki masterpiece paved the way for the late 1990s visual extravaganza (Takashi Miike and others).

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