Toshiro Mifune is unforgettable as Kingo Gondo, a wealthy industrialist whose family becomes the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper in High and Low (Tengoku to jigoku), the highly influential domestic drama and police procedural from director Akira Kurosawa. Adapting Ed McBain’s detective novel King’s Ransom, Kurosawa moves effortlessly from compelling race-against-time thriller to exacting social commentary, creating a diabolical treatise on contemporary Japanese society.
Tag Archives: Japan
On a beautiful island in Seto Inner Sea, Seichi and Minko make their living by transporting rocks to construction sites by boat. They cherish the deepest affection for this piece of land they call home, and the simple life they lead. But rapid industrial growth makes it all but impossible to continue their chosen living style, and they are forced to leave their beloved hometown in search of a brighter future. But their hometown lingers on their hearts, and they dream of a time when they may once again return.
Dogora / Uchû daikaijû Dogora (1964) Ishirô Honda, Yôsuke Natsuki, Yôko Fujiyama, Hiroshi Koizumi, Crime, Sci-Fi
Alone in the Night / Yoru ga mata kuru (1994) Takashi Ishii, Yui Natsukawa, Jinpachi Nezu, Toshiyuki Nagashima, Crime, Drama
Nami, the wife of a narcotics cop murdered in the line of duty. Nami is surprised to find that her husband, rather than being buried with honors, has been accused of involvement in organized crime. To clear his name, Nami goes undercover but is soon the victim of a brutal gang-rape which causes her to attempt suicide. She is saved by a cop named Muraki (Jinpachi Nezu), and they begin to work together to solve the case.
Goodbye, South, Goodbye / Nan guo zai jian, nan guo (1996) Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Hsiang Hsi, Kuei-Ying Hsu, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Crime, Drama
Produced by the Japanese Shochiku Company, this Taiwanese drama follows the lives of two generations of Taipei residents. Kao is a gangster, while divorcee/single mother/bar hostess Ying is his girl friend. Kao’s closest friend is rock singer Flathead and his slightly ditzy girl friend Pretzel. The troubles begin when Kao and his long-time cohort Hsi and the others set up a temporary gambling den in the highlands. As the day progresses, Pretzel gets so deeply into debt that she attempts suicide. Later Kao and His get some bad news about a shady business venture in Shanghai. To make some quick money, His and Kao devise a new scam to get the government to condemn so land so the two can quickly buy up all the pigs upon it and then sell them to their fellow gangsters, to the government and to the local farmers. The plan works until Flathead decides to flex his muscles and get some of his relatives, who live in the are, to pay their debts.
Harakiri / Seppuku (1962) Masaki Kobayashi, Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita, Action, Drama, History
Following the collapse of his clan, an unemployed samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to be allowed to commit ritual suicide on the property. Iyi’s clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for a new position, try to force his hand and get him to eviscerate himself – but they have underestimated his beliefs and his personal brand of honor. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize, Harakiri, directed by Masaki Kobayashi is a fierce evocation of individual agency in the face of a corrupt and hypocritical system.
Kôshikei / Death by Hanging (1968) Nagisa Ôshima, Kei Satô, Fumio Watanabe, Toshirô Ishidô, Comedy, Crime, Drama
This sad tale, based on a true story of a Japanese-born Korean student who raped and killed two girls in 1958 and was then hanged in 1963 when he reached maturity, is turned by director Nagisa Oshima into a black farce reminiscent of the darkly satirical, anti-authoritarian films of Luis Bu?uel. The film opens with the hanging of the criminal, but the noose fails to kill him. Instead he gets amnesia, and the executioners and officials reenact the crime, hoping to jog his memory and prove that he is guilty. Soon they begin to identify with their roles, and the line blurs between the crime and its reenactment. The film ends as a bitter indictment of Japanese nationalism, capital punishment, and Japanese institutional prejudice against Koreans.
This trilogy is comprised of Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bear Fighter, and Karate For Life, each one focusing on a different part of the life of Matsutatsu Oyama, a great practitioner and teacher of Kyokushin Karate. He’s played here by Sonny Chiba, himself a student of Oyama’s. Each of the films in question are worth a look, and this set offers a great deal for anyone who is interested in the particular charms of Japanese martial arts films.
009-1: The End of the Beginning (2013) Koichi Sakamoto, Mayuko Iwasa, Minehiro Kinomoto, Nao Nagasawa, Action, Crime, Pinku, Drama, Sci-Fi
In 20xx, the world is divided into two powers: the Western Block and the Eastern Block. Serving as a border zone between the two is “J-Country.” As such, it is used as a battleground for the two sides in their never-ending conflict. Mylene, an undercover agent from the western block, has been hiding out in J-Country. While investigating human trafficking, she meets a young man named Chris. Mylene finds herself attracted to Chris and after completing her mission and returning to headquarters she is unable to keep him out of her mind. “Recover Dr. Klein and see to her protection!” is the newest mission assigned to Mylene from the 00 agency. Abducted by the Eastern Block, Dr. Klein was in charge of the Faust Project and the technology that made Mylene into a cyborg. During the briefing for the mission she puzzles over a name that sparks memories buried within her cyborg mind. “Recover Dr. Klein and see to her protection!” is the newest mission assigned to Mylene from the 00 agency.Abducted by the Eastern Block, Dr. Klein was in charge of the Faust Project and the technology that made Mylene into a cyborg. During the briefing for the mission she puzzles over a name that sparks memories buried within her cyborg mind. Breaking into the laboratory where the doctor is being held, Mylene is surprised to find Chris being used as an experimental guinea pig. Distracted, she is unable to complete her mission and agents of the east take Dr. Klein away. Failing in her mission, Mylene has her license revoked by the agency. Spurred by the increasing flashes of memories locked away within her, she sets out on a mission of her own: to take back her memories and learn who she really is.
Girl’s Blood / Aka x Pinku (2014) Koichi Sakamoto, Yuria Haga, Oshima Haruka, Sanae Hitomi, Action, Pinku, Erotic
“Girl power” takes on a new meaning in Girl’s Blood, the erotic action drama based on a light novel by award-winning writer Sakuraba Kazuki (My Man). Set in the seedy underbelly of Tokyo, the film by director-former action choreographer Sakamoto Koichi follows the lives of four women who join an underground MMA fight club in an abandoned elementary school. Every night, the women escape their mundane lives and troubled pasts by stepping into the ring under unique personas and take on brutal fights in front of a spectacle-hungry audience. However, the women face a real enemy when two of the fighters fall in love.