With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Saturday, March 12, 2011

ACF 929: Four film Yakuza film marathon at Japan Society today

Japan Society's yakuza film series Hardest Men in Town goes into overdrive today with the screening of four films, all made in the mid-sixties by Toei. There is an individual admission charge for each film.

I've seen the first three listed below and can attest that each one is fine. I'm sure the same goes for Blood of Revenge. So AsianCineFest recommends that you see as many as you can. But however many you see, your jones for yakuza flicks will be well served.

Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, NYC. For series information and to buy tickets online, click

The Walls of Abashiri Prison (Pt. 3): Longing for Home © 1965 Toei Co., Ltd.

The Walls of Abashiri Prison (pt. 3): Longing for Home
Directed by Teruo Ishii
With Ken Takakura, Hiroko Sakuramachi,
Naoki Sugiura, Kunie Tanaka
1965, 89 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles
Saturday, March 12, 1 PM
International Premiere!

Forty-six years after its Japanese release, the most outstanding episode of the Abashiri series standing firmly on its own, is out in the world, and will have no issue attracting the uninitiated. Upon returning to his hometown of Nagasaki, recently released prisoner Shinichi Tachibana (Ken Takakura) wants to become a better man but must go back to his old gangster ways and former clan, the Asahi, in order to pay back a past debt. Trouble brews when the rival gang that was responsible for sending him to prison learns of his return. Left with no alternative, Tachibana decides to take them on.

Brutal Tales of Chivalry © 1965 Toei Co., Ltd.

Brutal Tales of Chivalry
Directed by Kiyoshi Saeki
With Ken Takakura, Ryo Ikebe, Yoshiko Mita, Shinjiro Ebara
1965, 90 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles
Saturday, March 12, 3 PM
International Premiere!

With this film, the honorable yakuza formula loiters on the threshold of formal perfection. Returning imperial soldier Gennosuke (Ken Takakura) finds his hometown hardly more than a pile of rubble. In short, it is Year Zero for this man whose world has been reduced to a dead zone of rusted, unpopulated townscapes. With the sheer power of his will and moral rectitude, Gennosuke must rebuild the local marketplace and protect it from the unscrupulous hands of a rival gang that couldn't care less about chivalry and honor.

Theater of Life: Hishakaku © Toei Co. Ltd.

Theater of Life: Hishakaku
Directed by Tadashi Sawashima
With Koji Tsuruta, Ken Takakura,
Yoshiko Sakuma and Ryunosuke Tsukigata
1963, 95 min., 35 mm, color, in Japanese with live English subtitles
Saturday, March 12, 5:15 PM
U.S. Premiere!

Tadashi Sawashima's Theater of Life launched the 1960s ninkyo eiga boom and is in many ways, the whole genre's blueprint. Hishakaku (Koji Tsuruta), as honorable a gangster as is humanly possible, is in love with Otoyo, a courtesan. But his obligations to the yakuza code keep them apart, not the least because of his stint in prison. During this time, Otoyo struggles against sinister gangsters who see her not as the sweetheart of a chivalrous gambler doing time for his gang, but as a simple commodity. The film made both Toei studio actors Koji Tsuruta and Ken Takakura superstars of the yakuza genre, though it's the fragile beauty of the actress Yoshiko Sakuma that impresses the most.

Blood of Revenge © 1965 Toei Co., Ltd.

Blood of Revenge
Directed by Tai Kato
With Koji Tsuruta, Junko Fuji,
Kanjuro Arashi, Masahiko Tsugawa
1965, 91 min., 16 mm., color, in Japanese with English subtitles
Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation
Saturday, March 12, 7:30 PM

"An absolutely standard period yakuza movie."--Time Out Film Guide

The outstanding performance by Koji Tsuruta, the yakuza genre's first star, is the most commanding reason to see this film, in addition to über-stylist Kato's masterly and distinctive mise en scène. Osaka, 1907: Asajiro (Tsuruta) lives between a rock and a hard place: he has to keep his business clean and running, tame his late oyabun's hot-blooded son and suffer the throes of his impossible love for beautiful geisha Hatsue (Junko Fuji). Life is tough, but misdeeds will not remain unavenged and trickling blood will swell to a flood, of course.

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