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Tag Archives: post ww2 japan

Episode one of the “Splendid Family”

The episode opens up in postwar Japan with the splendid family at a hotel they go to every year to welcome in the new year.  While the rest of the family waits, the elder son and main character Teppi is running late because he’s taking care of some business at the family conglomerates steel factory which he is in charge of.  He has just signed a deal with a new company because his new technology is 10 times stronger than anything else in Japan.

As the family begins to sit down for dinner and take the traditional annual photograph Teppi makes a just-in-time.  He is scolded by his father, the patriarch of the family, as well as the family “Butler” a woman who arranges many of the family’s affairs including marriages, meetings and other family business.  The Butler also has the luxury of sleeping with the father when he chooses, as he did on New Year’s Eve after dinner.

We then follow the father to the family bank which is the center of the family’s fortune and the conglomerate of companies.  As he is walking to his office, he looks onto the bank floor and sees hundreds people working and expresses concern for them and their families.  We have also learned that the Treasury Department of Japan is following America’s lead in consolidating the country’s banks in order to increase capital availability and modernize the economy.  Manypo (the father) has grown the family bank from being a local city branch to the 10th largest bank in the country.  However, because he is the 12th largest bank he is ripe for acquisition and will likely be merged into one of the larger banks thereby losing his authority and other privileges of ownership.  Out of necessity he looks to his son-in-law (a high ranking treasury official) for a way to employ strategy whereby a smaller bank would gobble up the larger bank.  A risky and complicated proposition.

Meanwhile his son Teppi decides that he needs to build a blast furnace in order to stay competitive in the steel industry.  This is no small task, requiring billions of Japanese yen in order to construct such a machine.  If the blast furnace is built successfully, it will be one of only a few in Japan that is able to make modern steel for cars and other heavy industry.  He approaches his father for the financing of this technological marvel who agrees to take the matter under advisement.  What we don’t know is why father and son have such a cold relationship given that Teppi seems very likable and capable–everything a father would possibly want a son to be.

We start to get hints when one evening the father is out looking at his koi pond and sees a praying mantis stuck in spiders web that is about to be devoured.  He thinks to himself he is more like my father than me.  He becomes even more spooked while the two of them are at the same pond later in the day and Teppi is able to summon the largest fish known as shogun by clapping his hands.

At this point things are still setting up and background is starting to be filled in as to the intra-family relationships as well as some family history that may be dark and swept under the rug begins to surface.  But the stage is being said for a long, interesting and complicated set of maneuvers supposedly among family members that are to be loyal to each other but instead will slowly stab each other in the back.

 

Next time episode two.

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Movie Reviews

 

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A Certain Killer (1967) Starring Ichikawa Raizo

Since I am STILL waiting for Bonnie to do her review here is a little known movie starring Ichikawa Raizo, A Certain Killer (1967).

A Certain Killer is a dark film in the “Le Samourai” vein, with Ichikawa Raizo playing a former kamikaze, now a restaurant chef and owner, who is slowly revealed to be working on the side as a cold, perfectionist hit man for two yakuza clans.  The main character (Raizo) is from the WW2 generation and has seen his dreams die in post-war Japan.  The movie opens with Raizo getting off a plane and hopping into a cab that takes him to the middle of what looks like an abandoned industrial field.  After looking around for a few minutes he begins to walk until he spots an obviously run down inn with rooms to rent.  Raizo (now wearing an eye-patch) rents the dirty, empty room from a nearly deaf lady and sits down to read the paper.  At this point the film begins to flash back to various scenes that lead up to his stay in the room.

First we Raizo eating along in a noodle shop while a young harlot is trying to sell her body in exchange for a bowl of noodles.  The cook wants nothing to do with her so when Raizo gets up to pay the bill he puts her meal on his check because he “does not want to see a woman sell her body that cheaply.”  While he is paying, the harlot sees the amount of cash he carries and begins to follow, nag and sell him out to her pimp.  He dispatches with the pimp but she continues to follow him to his restaurant where she chases off a nice young hard working Japanese girl by pretending to sleep with Raizo.

Then we get our first taste of his killing abilities.  He is hired to kills a Yakuza-boss who is constantly surrounded by 4 competent bodyguards.  Raizo manages to use a razor sharp needle to cut the obi of his target’s wife and when the bodyguards go to help her he inserts the tatami-needle at the base of his victim’s skull, killing him without a sound.  Raizo is paid twenty million yen for the job (in today’s currency about 2.1 million dollars) by the rival clan.

The harlot who will not leave him alone ends up sleeping with one of the clan’s henchmen that he just did the killing for.  He tells her about the twenty million yen and in their greed, they devise a plan to use Raizo to steal a drug shipment that the henchman knows about as well as to take his twenty million yen.

At this point we are pretty much caught up as Raizo looks out the window and we see the harlot running through the rain to get to the inn and meet up with Raizo.  While running, the harlot picks up the henchman and they both enter the room to wait.  Raizo the perfectionist scolds them for coming in together and makes them take the dinner garbage out separately so that no one will know that three people have been there.  Raizo gives the henchman a gun and they prepare for the heist.

At 3:00 am Raizo wakes up the harlot and the henchman and they set off to the place where the drug deal is going to take place.  Meanwhile the henchman has already dug Raizo’s grave in a garbage pit.  After they snatch the drugs, the henchman and the harlot make their move and try to shoot Raizo.  The gun is empty and Raizo asks if they think he is a fool knowing they would pull a stunt because when he was working as the junior on several jobs he thought of the same thing but never acted on it.  When they go outside to leave, they are confronted by the henchman’s clan, and the henchman is told that he now has a big problem because he is doing deals behind his boss’ back.

Our three robbers get into a good fight with their opponents but win out.  However, during the fight, some of the drug canisters are kicked into the stream and you sort of lose track of the rest.  Once they defeat the yakuza-clan the henchman is so impressed with Raizo that he wants to be his pupil.  Raizo declines and when pressed for an explanation, states “he doesn’t like a man who can’t tell the job from the romance,” whereupon he unzips his bag and pull out four canisters of the drugs, tells the henchman to split them with the harlot and then walks off.  The henchman, still standing there, is asked by the harlot if she can go with him and the answer is no because “women don’t know the difference between the job and the romance” — and he proceeds to walk away without the drugs as well.  The harlot then exclaims that she does not need him because she is going to find a new partner and makes lots of money anyway walking off—also leaving the drugs (it looks like she didn’t see them in plain sight).=320

Raizo gives a memorable performance in a role outside of his usual traditional historical film – he can ordinarily be found as a wandering ronin/antihero in (for instance) the Sleepy Eyes of Death series or the Shinobe No Mono movies (he was in 7 out of 8 of them) playing the famous ninja Goemon Ishikawa.  This story was good and based on a hard-boiled crime novel, “The Night Before,” by Fujiwara Shinji.  With little, but pointed, dialogue, sparing use of color, and an interesting penchant for objective longshot, A Certain Killer is an important rediscovery by one of Japanese cinema’s “kings of the Bs,” Kazuo Mori (1911-1989), who inspired Nagisa Oshima with the inherent rebellion of his daring constructions. Oshima said, “I was shocked to discover that the rage and hatred the world inspired in me at the time could be expressed so beautifully and powerfully by the cinema.”

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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