RARA-AVIS: yakuza

From: Mark Sullivan ( DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net)
Date: 19 May 2004

The other day, I saw Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill, a Japanese thriller about a yakuza killer. The professional killer likes to sniff rice, which throws him into an ecstatic trance. And he's played by an actor with surgical cheek implants that make him look like a cross between a chipmunk and Brando in The Godfather. He's the #3 killer, given to asking, "Who is #1?" It came out in 1967, the same year #6 started asking that same question in The Prisoner. And it's just as whacked out (in a good way) as The Prisoner.

Plotwise, it's a "program film," as Suzuki calls it (of course, he got fired because the studio said this film didn't make sense), a formulaic studio movie for nothing but entertainment, which sounds a lot like those B movies that later came to be considered noir classics. Stylistically, this black and white film also draws from America noir, but even more from the French new wave.

According to the movie notes, there are a whole bunch of Japanese movies like this. Are there Japanese books like this? The only one I can think of that comes close is Peter Tasker's series featuring his PI Mori, but he's a Brit, even if he does live in Japan. And they're far more recent. The Japanese mysteries I'm aware of are higher class affairs, just as the Japanese movies I knew were, such as Kurosawa's films. I know there are Manga of this sort, but are there Japanese Yakuza novels, Japanese equivalents of Gold Medals? And have any of them been translated?


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