Re: RARA-AVIS: Akushon films

Date: 30 Jul 2008

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    Japanese trash action films have become a lot more available since Kill Bill, capitalizing on its extensive quoting of them. I'll second David's recommendation of Seijun Suzuki's work and agree that his best are probably Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill (a scene of which Jim Jarmusch quotes in Ghost Dog), but also point to several other worthwhile titles: Tattooed Life, Kanto Wanderer and Youth of the Beast
    (trashy Yakuza remake of Yojimbo).

    Then there's director Kenji Fukusaku, probably most notorious for Battle Royale. However, he first became successful by reviving the yakuza genre with the six Yakuza Papers films, which brought a new gritty realism to the formerly idealized romanticism of the genre. His Graveyard of Honor and Street Mobster are also nasty (in the best way) depictions of gangsters.

    In a slightly different vein is Crazed Fruit, a '50s youth film that is at least as jaded as any of those coming out in the US or Europe at the time. Some might recognize the picture on the DVD from the cover of John Zorn's Spillane (one of the DVD's extras is a slideshow of Zorn's collection of Japanese genre movie posters).

    Then there's the '60s film Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter, a female gang film clearly influenced by Suzuki's style. It stars Meiko Kaji, who also played Lady Snowblood. She also starred in four women in prison movies as "Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion." Those are just the tip of the iceberg of "Pinky Violence" movies (sexploitation films with violent females, often out for vengeance) being reissued here.

    I guess this is as good a place as any to warn that some aspects of these films are pretty offensive to American sensibilities. For instance, rape scenes seem to be standard. And all too often the woman falls for her rapist in the yakuza films. In many of the pinky violence movies, on the other hand, the sought after revenge is often for that violation.

    And then there are the samurai films . . .

    It's a good time to be getting into trash Japanese films, thanks to the huge increase in availability to capitalize on interest fueled by Tarantino. And they're a hell of a lot better than some of the American trash action films that influenced him, like Doll Squad or Ebony, Ivory
    & Jade.


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