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  • A Legend of Turmoil

    A Legend of Turmoil

    ★★★★★

    What a triumph! A (Toei) masterpiece, A LEGEND OF TURMOIL has it all: the relentless action and bloody violence; the quieter, more emotional moments (that scene in which Jinnai Takanori leaves prison, for example, and the scenes featuring the note and letter of Kobayashi’s daughter); some great music; a Kitano appearance (among other heavy-hitters) and an absolutely awesome finale. In short: a perfect yakuza eiga. It all comes together in the commanding performance of Kobayashi Akira who seems to take…

  • A True Story of the Private Ginza Police

    A True Story of the Private Ginza Police

    ★★★★½

    In the same year (1973) Fukasaku popularised the jitsuroku eiga with the first instalment in his BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY series, came Sato Jun’ya’s PRIVATE GINZA POLICE. From the very disturbing first scene the relentless violence kicks in, never to leave the screen. As in the aforementioned Fukasaku films and typical for the genre, there’s the use of voice-over and freeze frames to mark important story events and the action is filmed with a shaky camera. Umemiya Tatsuo’s performance…

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  • The Graceful Brute

    The Graceful Brute

    ★★★★½

    Kawashima Yuzo’s THE GRACEFUL BRUTE revolves around one rather cramped Tokyo apartment and the family inhabiting it. The characters the family is made up of are all colourful in their own way, but they share one personality trait: greed. The father, Maeda Tokizo (Ito Yunosuke), an ex-soldier, laments the family’s living conditions in the post-war period. He never wants to go back to living like that. “A dog or even a cat lived better than that” we hear him say,…

  • Miyamoto Musashi: Showdown at Hannyazaka Heights

    Miyamoto Musashi: Showdown at Hannyazaka Heights

    ★★★★

    Miyamoto Musashi continues his journey in this second part of Uchida Tomu’s film series. After having spent years studying and living as a recluse in Himeji Castle, Musashi (Nakamura Kinnosuke) is poised to become Japan’s most complete and renowned swordsman. Quite a few characters who were introduced in Part I return in this instalment: Matahachi, mother and daughter pair Oko and Akemi, Otsu and the evil Obaba all appear. This second film is heavier on the action, but this is…

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  • To the Ends of the Earth

    To the Ends of the Earth

    ★★★★

    TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH, while a travelogue in appearance, doesn’t focus as much on Uzbekistan as it does on its lead actress, Maeda Atsuko. Maeda portrays the introverted TV announcer, Yoko, who’s in Uzbekistan with a small crew (headed by Sometani Shota’s Yoshioko) to shoot an upcoming episode of their travel variety show. When the camera starts rolling Yoko is all joy and smiles. In between those moments she’s sulking in the background, comes across as uninterested or…

  • The Chivalrous Life

    The Chivalrous Life

    ★★★½

    It was time for Ken-san again! Makino Masahiro’s THE CHIVALROUS LIFE stars Takakura Ken, Fuji Junko, Oki Minoru and Shimura Takashi. The beginning scenes revolve around Ryuma’s (Takakura) time in the Imperial Army and his relationship with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen since he was 8 years old. His superiors are relentless and abusive, leading Ryuma to wield a machine gun (what a great sight that was).

    Eventually he joins a respectable yakuza clan, headed by Sakamoto (Shimura). He…