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A Film Diary

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Watched: 4 December

Snazzy, snappy, jazzy Japanese gangster film by the late Seijun Suzuki, which has perhaps as much in common with the French New Wave as it does with the Yakuza flicks and American westerns that it lampoons. The plot is not particularly new: a gangster named “Phoenix” Tetsu wants to retire from a life of crime, but finds it nigh on impossible to do so, drawn back in partly out of misplaced loyalty to his old boss and partly because, hey, he’ll always be a gangster and all that; yet the film is playing a little with such cliches, and it’s also extremely modern for its time, with the plot revolving, unusually, around a real estate scam. It’s shot superbly by Shigeyoshi Mine, who moves from an opening black and white dockland prologue into colour and incorporates some wonderful images within the piano bars and tower blocks of Tokyo before the action moves into the snowy north. The action – and there’s rather a lot of it – is often balletic, which must surely be why Suzuki turns the final showdown into an overly-choreographed number that’s partly filmed on a soundstage, as if he were actually making a musical. It’s sharp and sometimes funny. (****)

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  1. January 12, 2018

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I remember it being both very odd and very colorful. I think I was expecting a more serious crime film, and got a Technicolor gangster musical instead. Maybe I owe it a second look.

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