Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo Nagaremono); Seijun Suzuki; 1966= Japan has a long history of yakuza or gangster films, but this one broke convention and helped to reinvent the genre. Tetsu is a yakuza member whose gang disbands, although Tetsu remains incredibly loyal to his boss Kurata. Otsuka, a rival boss, attempts to recruit Tetsu but fails. Otsuka recognises Tetsu’s potential and decides that if he isn’t an ally, he’s a threat. Kurata urges Tetsu to leave Tokyo, including his girlfriend Chiharu, and become a drifter. Hunted by rival gangs, Tetsu travels through Japan and tries to find safety. Tetsuya Watari plays Tetsu and he’s just what the film needs. He’s the kind of hitman you’d find in a Tarantino movie, which I love (in fact one small scene has a slow motion walk with men in suits and I couldn’t help but think of Reservoir Dogs). By that I mean that he isn’t a muscular action hero like Stallone or Willis. He’s a normal looking guy on the surface but he has great aim and he knows it. Consequently Tetsu has the cool factor in abundance which always fits nicely with a gangster flick. Suzuki borrowed heavily from Westerns and that’s quite evident. Tetsu embodies the anti-hero, the loner who travels from place to place, leaving broken hearts and dead bodies behind him. That was a very new dimension for a yakuza film. In the 1970s and onwards they became much more focused on dangerous criminals, just like the gangsters filling the screens in The Godfather, rather than the honourable and traditional heroes of the early yakuza. This film was actually really far ahead of it’s time for the genre, and helped to carve a new direction for the films to head in. Suzuki is also really talented as a director. His use of colour is phenomenal, and he clearly takes cues from the artistic cinema of the 1960s to create a quirky, unique aesthetic. It is a bit off the wall so some people might be put off but I don’t think the style is too distracting and in fact it makes me keen to see more of Suzuki’s work. I really enjoyed this film. It has all the necessary elements you need for a gangster film from any culture and I loved their treatment of the genre. I don’t mean this to be offensive, but you don’t have to be Japanese to enjoy this film like with some of the genres. It crosses cultural barriers and there are so many elements included which mirror the film noir of the 1940s, as well as the spate of American gangster films in the 1970s and 1980s. While I don’t think this is the best gangster film ever made, it does have the cool factor which I adore, and it has a distinct and ambitious take on the genre. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll definitely leave the film whistling the title song which is sung numerous times throughout. While this film probably won’t change your life, it’s definitely entertaining and incredibly well made, and achieves the difficult task of crossing cultural barriers with ease. 

- Sat, 10th December   29
#1960s #cantonese #chiharu #foreign #gangster #japanese #kurata #movies #otsuka #reviews #seijun suzuki #tetsu #tetsuya watari #the phoenix #tokyo drifter #tokyo nagaremono #yakuza #film
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