Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Violent Panic For Kitano

Very happy to read two extremely positive reviews of Takeshi Kitano's new yakuza film, Outrage, out of Cannes this morning.

The writers compared it to the director's best works such as Violent Cop and Sonatine. Personally, my favorite flick of his from this period is Hanna-B (aka 'Fireworks'), followed closely by Violent Cop and Sonatine, but I ain't gonna argue the point.

Recently, Kitano has been flying in other directions with works such as Achilles and the Tortoise (a film I liked quite a bit), Glory to the Filmmaker, and Takeshis' (I'm a fan of this also, with reservations) .

What rubbed me the right way in Variety's review of Outrage ('Autoreiji') was the referencing of Kinji Fukasaku's yakuza work.

In Maggie Lee's Hollywood Reporter review, she wrote:

'In fact, his representation of internecine gang rivalry and imploding power structure stands up to Kinji Fukasaku's seminal "Battle Without Honor" series in complexity and unsentimental attitude, with humor as mean and dry as a straight-up martini.'

Such referencing of one of my three favorite directors of all time has made me super-hot for this flick (not that I wasn't already).

I've been binging on Fukusaku's flicks for the last few months in an effort to catch up on everything I haven't seen. Fortunately, many more are becoming available in various shapes and forms from a litany of sources.

His Violent Panic - The Big Crash ('Boso Panniku: Daigekitotsu'; 76) really blew me away, and not for the reasons I imagined it would. The film has long been touted as featuring one of the most spectacular car chase sequences ever filmed in Japanese cinema. While the chase sequence is impressive, it is more like an extended car rally in the It's A Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild World vein. Fukasaku revisited the same type of scene himself in his '92 The Triple Cross and did it better.

Interestingly, Panic's opening stanza features a montage of bank robberies, also replicated in Triple Cross. There are several other similarities, too.

Car chases aside, the magic of Violent Panic can be found in its rich character mix and blending of melodrama, violence, unsentimental romance, and crime thriller elements. Fukasaku, whose last complete film was Battle Royale, thrived in the crime genre, and was able to make sense of seemingly disassociated elements within a particular story, finally knitting them together in a cinematic ball of dynamite.

Speaking of dynamite, crime flicks don't come much more incendiary than Fukasaku's blistering Hokuriku Proxy War, a '77 effort set in a predominantly snowbound area of Japan in which a yakuza torpedo, played with brute authority by Hiroki Matsukata, violently resists the outside influence of big city yakuza types. His war against them is stunning to behold.

Closing out recent viewings was the director's Outlaw Killers -- Three Mad Dog Brothers, a truly stunning tale of three violent, amoral miscreants who kill, steal, chop, stab and rape their way through one hundred minutes of flapping celluloid. Made in '72, the same year as the masterful Under the Flag of the Rising Sun and Street Mobster (Fukasaku was one busy fucker that year!), this frantic walk on the wild side is buoyed by a brutal turn from Bunta Sugawara, who plays a character not unlike Tetsuya Watari's psycho gangster 'Rikio Ishikawa' in Graveyard of Honor, and Fukasaku's in-your-face and at-your-balls direction that drops you in the middle of the carnage. Made just prior to the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, the energy levels, as usual, are through the roof.

With Takeshi Kitano's Outrage on the horizon, and Fukasaku being whispered in the same breath, it's good times for cinephiles.

5 comments:

  1. Glad to here that Kitano is back in action! I've always loved his work since the day I saw Violent Cop at the ICA in London, can't wait to see this.

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  2. jervaise brooke hamsterMay 18, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Phantom, have you read peregrine fforbes-hamiltons brilliant comments over on Soiled Sinemas reveiw of "The Woodsman"?, they are superb and incredibly enlightening!!!.

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  3. Beetoe -- I remember seeing VIOLENT COP for the first time myself. I was blown away.

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    hamster -- it really is time to compile your "enlightening" comments on one personal website (just make sure it's TOR-accessible only!!!)

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  4. jervaise brooke hamsterMay 19, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Phantom, what exactly does "TOR-accessible only" actually mean?.

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  5. jervaise -- please Google TOR. It's an anonymity tool.

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