YES, this beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy!
A Los Angeles detective and his Japanese partner woo an artist while solving a stripper's murder.
A Los Angeles detective and his Japanese partner woo an artist while solving a stripper's murder.
It doesn’t take much to realize that The Crimson Kimono, which features a quiet, tentative romance between a white American and a Nisei, or a second-generation Japanese American, was progressive for its time. Many would likely be surprised to know, however, that, in 1959, the year the film was released, nearly two dozen states in the U.S. still enforced anti-miscegenation laws, about half of which included "Asians" among the races whites were banned from marrying. And, according to a 1958 Gallup poll, 94 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage.
So yes, writer-producer-director Sam Fuller indeed wanted to push boundaries, which wasn't uncommon for him. The studio, typically, was more concerned about the bottom line, and tried to exploit…
Fuller’s pulpy, aggro style should be so antithetical to a serious examination of the role of race in America, yet few white filmmakers of his or any other time have more excoristingly explored the corrosive properties of racism. The Steel Helmet, made during the Korean War, explicitly confronts a black GI for risking his life to serve a country that actively denies him his rights, while White Dog suggests that the ambient corruption of racism is so strong that even animals can be warped by proximity to it. Yet the most tragic of Fuller’s explorations of the topic may be this, a detective story-cum-romance in which white and Japanese-American partners with a deep bond are fractured over the sentiments that…
“normal, healthy, jealous hate.”
feels at minimum five years ahead of its time. i preferred the whiplash-paced crime story to the romantic melodrama, but the latter aspect is undeniably more important. this sam fuller guy seems to know his stuff.
"Normal, healthy, jealous HATE!"
Racism is a slow-acting toxin that can poison even the closest, prejudice-free relationships, as long as the suggestion of it hangs so thick in the air. Here it gets in the way of not just a classic love triangle but a juicy murder investigation, and it's only the violent conclusion of the latter that allows for any measure of closure at all.
“Though it looked like a pretty conventional cops-and-criminals movie, The Crimson Kimono was almost operatic in its tone. I was trying to make an unconventionally triangular love story, laced with reverse racism, a kind of narrow-mindedness that's just as deplorable as outright bigotry.“ Samuel Fuller from A Third Face
I’d argue that Crimson Kimono would have be a classic hard-hitting noir in any case, stocked as it is with percussively edited action set pieces like the stripper fleeing down the streets of LA filmed with secret cameras and dodging real traffic and unsuspecting civilians. However, Fuller’s twists turn this into a unique film, and there are so few unique films.
By making one of the two buddy cops Japanese-American, he…
Motherfucking cinema imo.
Fuller's heralded direction is deserving of its accolades, certainly, in terms of the cinematography, storytelling (mostly), and his anti-racist themes. Shadows and faces (erm, not intentionally referencing Cassavetes) dominate the film, giving us both mystery and humanity, which feels right for Fuller. A misstep or two in one area is off-set by strengths in others--the sword fight is an awkward moment narratively but choreographed perfectly. The progressive social commentary is played up heavily, but at least it's there in some form.
What felt off to me, though, were the performances. I did not feel the chemistry. The two friends/partners on the force seemed a little awkward, perhaps because of the slightly heavy handed script at times, and the love triangle suffered because of it. The inherent betrayal of it lacked the punch it deserved, and using the sword fight scene to climax it only weakened it further.
December count: 19/100
Fuller in full effect. It’s amazing how he got so many dynamic master shots on these tight budgets but that was just the cinematic language used more back then. While not as provocative as it was back then, the racial tension is oddly casual for the time except for any “makin whoopie” scenes.
Otherwise, fantastic noir.
Also the lead in the film, Joseph Shigeta, was Takagi in DIE HARD! Badass AND trailblazer!
ok not BOTH of these taglines making james shigeta seem like some FREAK for white girls lmao...
i love how this is a looks-could-kill noir but in a slightly different interpretation
I don't often see The Crimson Kimono mentioned in discussions of films that so immediately and effortlessly express the film noir aesthetic, but Fuller really nails it right from the outset here. Smash cuts and harsh lighting highlight the ill-fated night club and immediately deliver the violence and sexuality of noir. It's seedy, it's grim; it's all sharp edges and sharper contrasts.
But the central contrast here is between the two lead investigators: Charlie Bancroft is "caucasian" and Joe Kojaku is Japanese-American. But they seem to share quite the camaraderie despite their racial difference, sleeping in cramped hotel rooms together and sharing room service like a…
it’s campy, it’s stylish, it’s got murder, it’s got jimmy shigeta playing the piano. what more could you ask for?
Fuller does typically stellar directing work on the crime half of the film, as both the opening murder down the street and the climatic rush through the parade crackle with hard-boiled pulp. But it's clear that his heart is in the racial drama/romance half, as the crime part recedes into the background at long stretches, and when it finally emerges around the end, it's resolved by most ham-fistedly, hilariously paralleling and serving the other half's themes that one can't help but wish Fuller had ditched it altogether (maybe do procedural vignettes as background instead of one long plot?). But that racial drama/romance is developed with heartfelt complexity while also being startlingly, casually progressive, especially in light of today's prestige fares like Green Book.
The Films of Samuel Fuller #3
woooOOOoooOOOhhh it’s mr. steal your girl
but on a serious note it was amazing to see someone who isn’t white as a romantic lead in 1959!!!
for 1959 this is pretty wild. japanese culture is treated with respect for the most part, but when the film actually does try to talk about racism, it’s a bit clumsily done (in 2021 terms)
the movie seems like it’s trying hard, and u do have to applaud it for being made in the fifties. they did barely do any crime stuff tho which was disappointing ngl
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Of the Samuel Fuller movies I've seen so far, this is the one - with its portraiture opening and recurrent talk of painting and music, its non-exoticizing interest in Japanese ceremonial style, its Casablanca ending with Anna Lee as an alcoholic muralist standing in for Claude Rains - that rings truest to Jonathan Rosenbaum's description of Fuller as an unexpected aesthete. I love the little poetic passages, like the child all dressed up for a parade who hands James Shigeta a fortune from a fortune cookie and the way Shigeta smiles upon reading it (naturally we never find out what it says). There's also this really great moment where Glenn Corbett picks up the phone and switches from the soft,…
Damn. This movie really creeps in on you. At first, I thought it was just a really beautifully photographed standard detective movie that's just about two cops solving a crime, but then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I was drawn into all these complicated matters of racism, both internal and external, deep bond between male friendships (could be read as romantic???), interracial relationships, microaggressions (in this case, I think the term applies very aptly and directly in a conversation between the two major white characters) and mingling cultures.
The dialogue especially is filled with poignancy that I felt a little tugging in my eyes.
James Shigeta: "Why am I taking [my anger] out on you?"
The white love interest: "Because…
A compact, efficient Sam Fuller B picture.
With such an explosive opening I wish more of the movie was detective based, not romantic drama (but even that was still good).
Ach, wie schade. Fuller beginnt seine Arbeit mit einer actionreichen Sequenz, die in Mord und Rätsel endet. Doch anstelle sich auf diesen Film-Noir-Aspekt zu fokussieren, verliert sich der Film in der zweiten Hälfte etwas zu sehr im Liebesdreieck. Da die Beziehungsfrage aber mit Fragen zu Rassismus und Gesellschaft gewürzt ist, wird es niemals zu schmalzig. Beeindruckende Kameraarbeit, wunderbare Schauspieler*innen und geniale Schnittfolgen sollten eh Empfehlung genug sein.
Good crime of passion story, Fuller sure liked to be different than other Hollywood filmmakers! always like his romantic approach, this one of his best.
The salacious race-baiting marketing for this film is pretty funny in how off-base it is. The movie isn’t exploitative in the slightest, and I wasn’t shocked to hear that Sam Fuller resented the choice to plaster “YES, this is a beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy” on the poster.
This is a fairly nuanced genre film, ostensibly a mystery but really a story of a love triangle, tinged with racial and sexual tension. Fuller’s knack for snappy dialogue translates well to some incredibly human interactions, boosting a charming leading cast into some electric scenes of chemistry. James Shigeta and Victoria Shaw illuminate the screen in some sincerely sweet moments of romance, aided by somewhat transgressive themes…
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