Fantastic Fest

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nikkatsu Action Retrospective

1960s NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA Retrospective

The label said it all: Nikkatsu akushon. Nikkatsu was a studio that had been around since the silent days and akushon was "action," written in the katakana alphabet for foreign words. During their peak, from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, Nikkatsu action films evoked a cinematic world neither foreign nor Japanese. It was a mix of the two, where Japanese tough guys had the swagger, moves, and even the long legs of Hollywood movie heroes. It was a place where the Tokyo streets, Yokohama docks, and Hokkaido hills took on an exciting, exotic aura, as though they were stand-ins for Manhattan, Marseilles, or the American West.

The aim of this retrospective series, first presented at the 2005 Udine Far East Film Festival, is not to challenge the critical consensus, but rather to broaden the discussion by presenting a representative non-Suzuki selection from all periods of Nikkatsu Action. And by doing so, we hope to provide an opportunity for Western audiences to discover some surprising new classics of Japanese genre cinema, and hope that these dramatic, stylish, and entertaining films might some day stand alongside those already enshrined in the critical canon and eventually be made available on home video for a new generation of enthusiastic fans.

With NO BORDERS, NO LIMITS: NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA author Mark Schilling live in person to introduce each film.

1960s NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA Retrospective
A Colt Is My Passport (Colt wa ore no passport)
Vicious Japanoir that cuts like a samurai sword dipped in gunpowder. When the most badass hired killer in Japan (genre icon Jo Shishido) takes down a rival boss, you better believe there's going to be a showdown - yakuza style. A hyper-stylish existential parable with an explosive climax on the beach as Shishido faces off against a bulletproof limo full of gangsters. This is Japanese crime at its most hardcore - lean, sparse and merciless. (Lars)

1960s NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA Retrospective
Velvet Hustler (Kurenai no nagareboshi)
One of the reasons I watch gangster movies is to become cooler. And Tetsuya Watari's performance in the lead is like a master class on how to look totally unconcerned until it's time to take care of business. He's probably the laziest protaganist I can think of in any Yakuza movie. He takes frequent naps, with his slouch hat pulled over his eyes and a cigarette burning away on his lip. And when he hits the dance floor - you won't believe it. But when the fiancee of a missing millionaire (played by the
supernaturally ravishing actress Ruriko Asaoka) shows up playing detective, he totally loses his cool over her. This movie combines gorgeous new wave editing and cinematography with an unhurried, character-driven approach that's thoroughly appealing. (Lars)

1960s NIKKATSU ACTION CINEMA Retrospective
Warped Ones (Kyonetsu no kisetsu)
"An important rediscovery on many fronts." - Tim Lucas, VIDEO WATCHDOG.
This may be the first Japanese punk film. The aesthetic reflects the new freedom felt by many world film makers when the import of Godard's early films asserted itself. So you'll see a much more wide open approach to composition and editing, as classical modes are trampled. And onscreen, traditional relationships and social contracts are ripped apart and tossed to the wind. The story of three juvenile delinquents who transgress all legal moral and sexual codes jumps like the jazz beat that propels it. Released in the U.S. as WEIRD LOVEMAKERS! (Lars)


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