With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

ACF 938: "Ryuji" screens at Japan Society tonght

Ryuji © 1983 momo k.

Directed by Toru Kawashima
With Shoji Kaneko, Eiko Nagashima,
Koji Kita, and Kinzoh Sakura
1983, 92 min., 35 mm, color
In Japanese with live English subtitles
When: Friday, March 18th, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Where: Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, NYC
Between 1st and 2nd Avenues
International Premiere!
Buy tickets online
From March 14–June 30, 2011: 50% of all ticket sales
will go to Japan Society's Earthquake Relief Fund

"One of the only great yakuza pictures made since the Battles Without Honor and Graveyard of Honor in the seventies."--Kinji Fukasaku, in Chris D.'s Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film

Ryuji is more than just a film, it is the final testament of a dying man, a young stage actor eager to find an interesting role on the big screen. His name is Shoji Kaneko. He likes writing and yakuza cinema, and chooses to write the story himself--the portrait of a young yakuza who (following the usual conceit) wants to leave the underworld, for the sake and love of his wife and daughter, after a long stint in jail. A fragile film, not unlike the performance of the lead actor/writer, who succumbed to cancer one week after the film's release.

Ryuji seems to be haunted by his disappearance, as if anticipating the mourning of its own central figure. With a realism reminiscent of the Actors Studio's famed method (the actor joined a real gang to capture the essence of the role and the world in which the yakuza live), the drama comes to life with the support of a formidable cast (notably, the actor's real-life daughter). An anti-noir film with unusual sheen and clarity, Ryuji is touched with breathtaking moments of loveliness and hints of peace, the blend of moral brinksmanship, and restrained visuals.

The pleasures of the film reside in the mischievous yet tolerant recognition that behind brutality lies human frailty, in its infinite range. The manner of its delivery is so disarmingly graceful--lacking neither emotional impact nor aesthetic punch--that you can almost feel the blood of the film flow.

ACF Comment: With a "gang" consisting of only three members and almost all the violence directed within that group, Ryuji is not your typical yakuza flick. But it's a terrific drama and definitely should be seen. ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended.

This screening of Ryuji is part of the Globus Film Series:
Hardest Men in Town: Yakuza Chronicles of Sin, Sex & Violence

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