Following the young yakuza Kohji (Yusuke Iseya) from Japan to Canada, the action of François Rotger’s The Passenger (2005) takes place on two continents. Kohji, who has fallen out of favour with his mentor Naoki Sando (Yosuke Natsuki) because the latter surprised him in bed with his daughter Hiroko (Kumi Kaneko), is given a chance […]
To Mifune Rikiya 11 June 2021, 6.30 p.m. – the opening of a small retrospective of ten films dedicated to the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune at the Japanese Cultural Institute in Cologne, Germany. It may not look like a big event, but for me it is the culmination of a long and highly emotional […]
In Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (Akahige, 1965), Dr. Niide (Toshiro Mifune), called “Red Beard”, offers medical treatment cheaply or for free in Edo (as Tokyo was formerly called) in the first half of the 19th century. The nickname Red Beard hints at “red medicine” (komo i gaku), designating the treatment practised by the Dutch (the […]
Pale Flower (Kawaita hana, 1964), set in the yakuza milieu, questions the codes of Japanese gangsters and subverts the gangster codes of the films that flooded the Japanese film market in the early 1960s. It deals with obsessive love but replaces the carnal element with gambling. Shinoda’s film harks back to Charles Baudelaire’s volume of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal (The […]
At the core of Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985) is the ambition of the central character, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), to produce in her small ramen noodle shop the best ramen (Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a broth) in Tokyo. Truck driver Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and four other men help the widow to turn her business around. […]
Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi, 1948) is Akira Kurosawa’s first film in which music, used at both a diegetic and non-diegetic level, plays an eminent structural role. One key scene is set in “Club Number 1,” a dance hall in the slum in which the action takes place. In this scene, the jazz song “Jungle Boogie” […]
Kobayashi’s vitriolic portrayal of a society dominated by crime and corruption.
Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi, 1948) paints a gloomy portrait of post-war Tokyo, a city in ruins where crime, corruption and barbaric behaviour abound and where people struggle against poverty, violence and tuberculosis, which was a death sentence at the time. The protagonists try to survive in a chaotic society marked by confusion and emptiness, but […]