Tag Archives: Japan

The Challenge (1982) John Frankenheimer, Scott Glenn, Toshirô Mifune, Donna Kei Benz, Action, Drama

The Challenge (1982)
Rick, a down-and-out American boxer, is hired to transport a sword to Japan, unaware that the whole thing is a set up in a bitter blood-feud between two brothers, one who follows the traditional path of the samurai and the other a businessman. At the behest of the businessman, Rick undertakes samurai training from the other brother, but joins his cause. He also becomes romantically involved with the samurai’s daughter.

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Tôkyô nagaremono / Tokyo Drifter (1966) Seijun Suzuki, Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Tamio Kawachi, Action, Crime, Drama

Tokyo Drifter (1966)
Tokyo Drifter stands with Branded to Kill as one of the best-known and most acclaimed films of Seijun Suzuki, one of Japan’s most talented maverick directors. A colorful riot of an action drama, Tokyo Drifter, like many of Suzuki’s films, transforms a standard gangster film plot into a vehicle for his own loopy brand of filmmaking, featuring gorgeous cinematography, unconventional storytelling techniques, and a dark sense of humor. This particular example centers on Tetsu, a yakuza member who, when his gang is disbanded, remains loyal to his boss and attempts to go straight. This is no easy task, however, as the yakuza are determined to get him back into the life – or kill him if he refuses. The pressure soon forces Tetsu to go on the road, becoming the “Tokyo drifter” of the title, but even this is not enough to prevent his past from violently catching up with him. The film’s choreographed action and vibrant color palette make the frequent action sequences, including one of the most raucous barroom brawls ever put on film, seem almost like musical numbers, resulting in a spectacularly entertaining and truly original take on the gangster drama.

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Goyôkiba: Kamisori Hanzô jigoku zeme / Hanzo the Razor: The Snare (1973) Yasuzô Masumura, Shintarô Katsu, Keiko Aikawa, Kazuko Inano, Keizô Kanie, Action, Drama

The Snare (1973)
Against the backdrop of the Edo treasury devaluing currency and driving many into poverty, Hanzo Itami enforces the law without regard to status. He shows inadequate respect to the treasurer, who wants him dead. He finds a young woman dead following an abortion, and he enters a temple without permission looking for evidence. He tortures and then sexually assaults the temple’s priestess to get information. He’s then assigned to protect the mint from a notorious thief. There he closets himself in the bedroom of the mint’s mistress. He waits. The thief arrives – but other crimes are afoot. Devalued currency, white slavery, and government corruption lead Hanzo to one conclusion.

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L’Homme du Train (2002) Patrice Leconte, Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-François Stévenin, Crime, Drama, Thriller

L'Homme du Train (2002)
One evening, a stranger, Milan, arrives in a small French town and enters a pharmacy to buy some aspirin. There, he meets Manesquier, a retired teacher who lives alone in a huge house. Realising he has bought soluble aspirin by mistake, Milan accepts Manesquier’s invitation to his house. Despite their differences, the two men are drawn together by a mutual respect. Milan, a world-weary gangster, would willingly swap his life for Manesquier’s calm retirement. In his turn, Manesquier fancies himself in Milan’s shoes, living a life of danger and adventure. Three days from now both men have to confront death – Manesquier in a heart operation, Milan in a bank raid. Realising how little time is left to them, the two men reflect on the other life they could have had…

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Goyôkiba: Oni no Hanzô yawahada koban / Hanzo the Razor: Who’s Got the Gold? (1974) Yoshio Inoue, Shintarô Katsu, Kô Nishimura, Mako Midori, Mikio Narita, Action

Who's Got the Gold (1974)
Follow the money. In a time of economic disaster for wage earners, Hanzo discovers a conspiracy among high officials to “borrow” gold from the shogunate’s treasury and loan it out to the destitute, including impecunious samurai – exacting either interest payments or family heirlooms from the debtors. Along the way, Hanzo extracts a confession from a ghost using his assaulting methods, foils thieves, connects with Heisuke Takei a friend from his youth, offers protection to a forward-thinking physician Genan Sugino who has defamed his ruler, discovers a pleasure ring of young wives and a blind music teacher, and cuckolds a corrupt official under his very nose.

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Jo no mai / Appassionata (1984) Sadao Nakajima, Mariko Okada, Yûko Natori, Morio Kazama, Kei Satô, Biography, Drama

Appassionata (1984)
This story is based on the novel “Jo No Mai” by Tomiko Miyao which is based on the life of painter Sh?en Uemura (1875–1949), the first woman to be awarded the Order of Culture. The title refers to the masterpiece bijinga (“picture of a beautiful woman”) that Uemura painted at the age of 61. The main character, Tsuya Shimamura, is born in Kyoto as the second daughter of a tea trader who dies before her birth. Tsuya, who loves painting more than anything and is hopeless at housework, attends art school and at age 15 receives the name Sh?sui (from the characters for “pine” and “green”) from her teacher. The crown prince of England purchases one of her works, propelling her to fame overnight. The novel portrays the remainder of her stormy life, during which she is impregnated by her teacher and raises a fatherless child; through it all she devotes herself to her painting, undaunted.

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Kitamura Toukoku: Waga fuyu no uta / Tokoku Kitamura. My Winter Song (1977) Seiichiro Yamaguchi, Ranbô Minami, Mari Tanaka, Renji Ishibashi, Mariko Fuji, Drama, Romance

Tokoku Kitamura. My Winter Song (1977)
Tokoku Kitamura (1868-1894) is a Romantic poet and an advocate of liberalism in the Meiji era. This biopic is centered on New Year’s Day of 1894, when Kitamura is recovering from a suicide attempt. Japan is then under the spell of fervent patriotism because the government wants to build up public support for a war with China. Kitamura’s literary friends and militant comrades come to visit. They wonder why Kitamura wants to kill himself. Kitamura at first refuses to receive them, then he sits down with them and looks back on his days as a civil rights militant, his stormy love life and his ardent but destructive desire to live literature to the full.

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The Crying Game (1992) Neil Jordan, Stephen Rea, Jaye Davidson, Forest Whitaker, Crime, Drama, Romance

The Crying Game (1992)
An unlikely kind of friendship develops between Fergus, an Irish Republican Army volunteer, and Jody, a kidnapped British soldier lured into an IRA trap by Jude, another IRA member. When the hostage-taking ends up going horribly wrong, Fergus escapes and heads to London, where he seeks out Jody’s lover, a hairdresser named Dil. Fergus adopts the name “Jimmy” and gets a job as a day laborer. He also starts seeing Dil, who knows nothing about Fergus’ IRA background. But there are some things about Dil that Fergus doesn’t know, either…

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