Blue Sky Markets: Part Six

If there is ever a bower-bird of Japanese cinema, it has to be Quentin Tarantino. The Kill Bill franchise contains a dozen references, and probably a ton more which are easily missed, not having the benefit of his vast film library. He pillaged Yasuharu Hasebe’s Lady Snowblood which is sort of okay – or at least made okay by the appearance of the catholic nun assassin team and some strategically naked swordplay scenes. Hasebe also turned out gems like Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter with teenage girl knife fights. Other pearls include Female Prisoner Scorpion #701: Grudge Song.

Female badass Meiko Kaji

Female badass Meiko Kaji

I’m certainly glad I wasn’t introduced to Pinky Violence flics when I was a young impressionable who regularly went to the drive-in. Gauzy soft porn, much envisceration with knives, swords and other sharp objects. They would have been responsible for destroying a whole generation of school boys.

Hasebe also made the pretty slick yakuza flic Bloody Territories in 1969. You can read a flawed synopsis HERE. Flawed, simply because the movie reflects the yakuza’s image of themselves:

Yakuza have always prided themselves upon the code of bushido, or way of the samurai. Violent death was traditionally seen as a poetic, tragic, and honorable fate, and the concepts of giri and ninjo are central to the relationships among members. Giri, or obligation, refers to the strong sense of duty that is felt between members, and in a sense is the “social cloth” that binds much of Japan together. Ninjo is roughly translatable to emotion, or human compassion, and denotes “generosity or sympathy to toward the weak and disadvantaged, and sympathy towards others (Kaplan and Dubro 28).” This tie to chivalry and patriotism gave the Yakuza a sort of Robin Hood type of romantic image when viewed in the public eye.
Reference HERE and some additional reading provided by Jake Adelstein, who has recently monetised his life of crime reporting in Japan into a Hollywood production. (Don’t expect much though.)

Brothers with full body tats. Men of honour in a tightly organised, rule-governed hierarchical order.

Yakuza inner-gang life was/is Hobbesian to put it mildly. Greed, betrayal, extreme violence, side deals at odds with the corporate charter, bosses who don’t think twice about sacrificing underlings, all in all behaviour which displays a distinct lack of brotherhood. If Bloody Territories reflects the conventional yakuza myths, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles without Honour or Humanity is the ultimate revisionist take on the modern yakuza reality which rose out of the ruins of WW11.

Just dig this for an opening musical sequence.

Highly complicated plot which begins in a black market with a GI intent on rape, a murder and other general mayhem. Ominous RKO voice overs hold the narrative sequences together. Lurid burlesque jazz soundtrack. Reviews HERE and HERE.

battles without honor or humanity
Oh yes, the final scene – Shinto mob funeral – where protagonist Hironi rejects the code with some well placed bullets.

This is the big daddy of all yakuza movies. No competition.


3 Responses to “Blue Sky Markets: Part Six”

  1. jsfb Says:

    Esteemed KT:
    It would not surprise you, that I came back to your domain after I listened to this

    That was last night at a joint downtown. So, I came here today and I and was rewarded by the latest instalments of the Rockabilly and Blue Sky series (I have to put some of the movies in my netflix queue – thanks for the tips). But I must also say that the DPRK girlie piece is priceless – where do you dig up stuff like that ?

    I visited the rest of the China blogosphere too. Nothing too exciting: Another June 4th and an HH moron blowing their top off (true Fujiyama daddy) after really living in China for a while.. Ha !

    I think that you really have grasped the real post-modernity of it all. And to justify my statement – I was in the middle kingdom again last month. I had my share of surreal experiences as usual, one of which was during a drunken night at a karaoke bar when I sang “Anarchy in the UK” (video of flowers and mountains included for free) to an oblivious audience of local “business partners”, I still think about that bizarre moment and I wonder whether it has some “globally important” implications 🙂

    Take care and pls keep the torch burning..

  2. kingtubby1 Says:

    Nice to see you back in class after those moatai nights in the Middle Kingdom.

    Wanda Jackson. I have a collection of her ditties somewhere in the innards of the pc, but haven’t got past her version of Shaking All Over with Jack White doing the killer riff. That has to be one of my fave songs of all times. Versions: Normie Rowe Oz pop idol mid 60s did a great versions as did a million church hall bands of the day. Johnny Kidd: the original and great. The Who: sort of okay.
    I really like Vince Taylors version with a film set which cost the BBC about two and six.

    Here is an obsessive German on the subject.

    In my take, post modernity is all about irony and pleasure in recognising how any text (film, novel etc) is embedded in a tangle of other cultural references. Oh heck, I’m too lazy to pull out the relevant authorities and expand this point. If anything, Japanese directors were keenly aware of what was happening in Hollywood across the Pacific. They just managed to give things a darker twist. Possibly a response to living in a outwardly conformist society.

    That HH reality check was fun to read.

    Myself: I have a big cheese loawai blogger (not PD) firmly in my sights, but am unsure whether to proceed, since it will turn me into a hate object among the responsible commenting class.


  3. Blue Sky Markets: Part Six | Says:

    Robt Melchiorre

    If there is ever a bower-bird of Japanese cinema, it has to be Quentin Tarantino. The Kill Bill franchise contains a dozen references, and probably a ton more which are easily missed, not having the benefit of his vast film library. He pillaged Yasuhar…

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