Kinji Fukasaku Appreciation Thread

War Party

Ve vant ze money,Lebowski
Mar 26, 2005
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I believe this man needs his own thread. He is a legend and deserves more recognition on these boards. Of course, he's the man behind Battle Royale, which is a masterpiece in my mind. But he's also directed many other fantastic and wonderful films. I like to suggest these films:

The Yakuza Papers Series


In the wake of the Bomb, ex-soldier Shozo Hirono [Bunta Sugawara] joins a Hiroshima yakuza gang, the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia–and then the shootings, slashings, betrayals, and scheming begin. Premiering a year after The Godfather, The Yakuza Papers also broke box office records and spawned sequels, but, in contrast, took a ruthlessly de-romanticized view of the underworld. Based on an actual gang boss's memoirs, The Yakuza Papers plunges the audience into a gritty, brutal, violent newsreel of a three-decade struggle for power of Shakespearean complexity, a nihilistic epic unlike any other.
Yakuza Graveyard


Following Cops Vs. Thugs by a year, Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza Graveyard is even more violent and colorful, featuring several scenes that Quentin Tarantino obviously borrowed from for Kill Bill. With a similar nearly-humorous soap opera-like plot, Tarantino also adopted filmic storytelling devices used in this film, namely the freeze-frames on characters during plot summaries, and the switch to black-and-white during scenes that occurred in the past. Opening with a scene in which Nishida gang members beat up casino guests, shoot a man in a baseball stadium, then get severely abused by cops, Yakuza Graveyard continues at a ferocious pace, as the Nishida and Yamashiro families fight to take over the city. Police are inept, minus Kido Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari), a Dirty Harry-like detective who falls in love with Nishida member, Mrs. Keiko (Meijo Kaji). Kuroiwa swears brotherhood with Nishida Boss Iwata (Seizo Fukumoto), allowing him to be with Keiko, but ruining his career as a cop. As Kuroiwa’s rough bravado blurs the line between the lawmakers and the lawbreakers, the cops and the yakuza start to look equally corrupt. With his trademark use of the handheld camera during battle scenes, Fukasaku’s shots in Yakuza Graveyard are woozier, often capturing sex and violence completely sideways on the screen. Every character seems to be carrying a bottle of whisky, giving the film itself a drunk and disorderly quality. Crime doesn’t pay though it certainly looks good on a screen.
Cops vs.Thugs


Better known in America for his campy cult classics like Black Lizard, director Kinji Fukasaku made over sixty films spanning forty years, and until now only a handful have been available on DVD. Kino’s re-release of Fukasaku’s earlier yakuza films, such as Cops Vs. Thugs and Yakuza Graveyard, give viewers a chance to witness Japanese gangster violence in all of its seedy and futile glory. Kurashima City in Western Japan, 1963, has been overtaken by the mob. The Tomoyasu family is feuding with the Ohara/Kawades over a lucrative land deal, and the police force is satiated by yakuza bribes of sake and geishas. Even Detective Kuno (Bunta Sugawara), the police team’s most yakuza-savvy member, is loyal to Kenji Hirotani, slated to become boss of the Oharas. When severe violent upheaval, such as a gruesome beheading in the subway station, begins to affect the public sector, Lieutenant Shoichi Kaida (Seizo Fukumoto) is transferred in to take out the trash. He and Kuno butt heads over how to get the feuding under control, until utter tragedy befalls the gangsters as well as the law enforcement. Fukasaku maximizes fight scenes by using a handheld camera to get close-ups of the action. Bodies fly in front of the camera, and blood pools on the floors where the men slaughter each other. Cops Vs. Thugs lurks in the shadows of the great samurai films (in fact it was released by samurai-movie makers TOEI Productions) but the yakuza code is less chivalrous than that of samurais. Moreover, cops and yakuza are equally weak, proving post-WWII Japan to be a place void of honor. Also in the tradition of Tokyo Drifter, Cops Vs. Thugs is a noir classic filmed in color, ripe with great battle scenes and vibrant characters.
Fall Guy


Winner of five awards from the Japanese Academy, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress, internationally acclaimed director Kinji Fukasaku’s Fall Guy is a moving love story and a heartfelt valentine to the movies. Morio Kazama stars as Ginshiro, a vain and selfish actor whose stardom is threatened by rising star Tachibana (Daijiro Harada).In a desperate bid to burnish his image, Ginshiro compels a devoted member of his entourage, Yasu (Mitsuro Hirata), to marry Ginshiro’s pregnant mistress, Konatsu (Keiko Matsuzaka). To support his new wife, the devoted Yasu becomes a stunt man, performing increasingly dangerous stunts. Konatsu is torn between Yasu and Ginshiro, who compels his loyal disciple to perform a death-defying stunt that could save the film and Ginshiro’s career.
Sympathy For The Underdog


From Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor & Humanity) comes this pivotal early crime drama in the celebrated career of the director who changed the face of Japanese action cinema. Stylish and hard-boiled, Sympathy for the Underdog stars Koji Tsuruta, one of Japan’s seminal figures in the Yakuza genre, as Gunji, an aging Yakuza who is released from prison after ten years. Gunji lives by a code of honor that has no place among Tokyo’s modern corporate gangs. He gets a new lease on life by reforming his former gang and taking over the whiskey trade on the island of Okinawa. But he is forced to make a final, fateful, bloody stand against the mainland gang that sent him to prison.
Under The Flag of the Rising Sun


Sachiko Hidari gives a towering performance in Kinji Fukasaku's devastating anti-war drama as Mrs.Togashi, a war widow determined to clear the name of her disgraced husband, who was court-martialed for desertion and executed. Official records have been destroyed, and the ministry that distributes benefits continues to deny her a pension. Twenty-six years after the war, she seeks out four survivors of her husband's garrison. Each tells a dramatically different story about her husband's conduct, but she is determined to learn the truth. "Until my husband can rest in peace," she proclaims, "I'll have no comfort." Thus begins a Rashomon-like mystery that unfolds in harrowing flashbacks, punctuated by archival still combat images that convey the brutality and absurdity of war.
If You Were Young:Rage


With the same visual flare used in his distinctive yakuza films, director Kinji Fukasaku (The Yakuza Papers) tells the riveting story of five kids who come to Tokyo for work in If You Were Young: Rage.

In the 1960s, Japanese teens were often sent from rural areas to Tokyo and other major cities, helping to fuel Japan’s rapid economic development. Fukasaku shows the shocking consequences for idealistic youths whose dreams are soon torn apart in a chaos of class turmoil and youthful indiscretion.
Blackmail Is My Life


The breakout success of 2000's fantastic Battle Royale resulted in long-overdue global recognition of the films of Kinji Fukasaku, and Blackmail Is My Life is a perfect example of the director working in his prime. By the time this unconventional crime thriller was released in 1968, post-war Japanese culture was caught in a vice-grip of cynicism and corruption well suited to Fukusaku's singular penchant for gritty, stylized action and unhappy endings that could only be attempted under the more liberal-minded aegis of Shochiku studios. Tautly paced and fueled by a trendy soundtrack synthesis of whistled themes and electric rock, Blackmail centers on a quartet of young daredevils who've discovered blackmail as a means to enjoy the booming economy from which they've been excluded. When they try to squeeze both Yakuza kingpins and government officials by threatening to air their dirty laundry, they quickly confront the lethal consequences of their headstrong bravado. In addition to giving lead actor Hiroki Matsukata an opportunity to move away from the Yakuza-thriller roles he'd grown famous for, Fukusaku's raw energy incorporates a variety of compelling nihilistic touches, not the least being the use of adrenalized crime as an effective aphrodisiac. Above all, his astonishing finale serves as both moral warning and scathing criticism of public apathy--a bloody wake-up call to Japanese culture and budding criminals everywhere!
Shogun's Samurai:The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy


Following the death of the second Tokugawa shogun, it is revealed that he was poisoned by retainers of his son Iemitsu in hopes of gaining him the shogunate despite the stammer and birthmark which undermine his respect. Iemitsu and his brother Tadanaga become bitter rivals for the shogunate, and the land is split into factions, eventually erupting into warfare. Iemitsu's mentor, his fencing instructor Yagyu, is fixated upon securing Iemitsu the shogunate and ends up betraying everyone, even his own family, in pursuit of the goal.
Graveyard of Honor


Action director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Tora! Tora! Tora!) created one of his most unusual yakuza films with Graveyard of Honor, a highly stylized account of the life of Rikio Ishikawa, a strong arm man who works for one of Japan's biggest crime families. In one brutal scene after another, Fukasaku documents the downward spiral of a sociopathic thug who will do anything to survive in Japan's decadent underworld of drugs, murder for hire, and prostitution. Graveyard of Honor is a brutal and unsparing look at the modern Japanese yakuza—men who live without a code of honor.
Street Mobster


In the tradition of Takeshi Kitano, Sergio Leone, and George Romero, Japanese action director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale I and II, The Yakuza Papers) brings to life Street Mobster, the story of a violent killer who will stop at nothing to satisfy his lust for blood. Released from prison, gangster Isamu Okita plans to start his own gang and begins a reign of terror using beatings, prostitution, stabbings, and murders to fight his way to the top of the gangland world. Street Mobster is a look into the dark realm of Japan's criminal underworld, where anything can be had for a price.
And of course:

Battle Royale


With the Japanese currently leading the way in thought-provoking cinematic violence, it's only fitting that Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale is being touted as a Clockwork Orange for the 21st century. Based on the novel by Koshun Takami, the film opens with a series of fleeting images of unruly Japanese schoolchildren, whose bad behavior provides a justification for the "punishments" that will ensue. Once the prequel has been dispensed with, the classmates are drugged and awaken on an island where they find they have been fitted with dog collars that monitor their every move. Instructed by their old teacher ("Beat" Takeshi) with the aid of an upbeat MTV-style video, they are told of their fate: after an impartial lottery they have been chosen to fight each other in a three-day, no-rules contest, the "Battle Royale." Their only chance of survival is through the death of all their classmates. Some pupils embrace their mission with zeal, while others simply give up or try to become peacemakers and revolutionaries. However, the ultimate drive for survival comes from the desire to protect the one you love. Battle Royale works on many different levels, highlighting the authorities' desperation to enforce law and order and the alienation caused by the generation gap. Whether you consider the film an important social commentary or simply watch it for the adrenaline-fueled violence, this is set to become cult viewing for the computer game generation and beyond.
There are no fans of his here? That's too bad.
I've only seen the Battle Royal films. I never really knew the directors name. As far as Asian Cinema goes the only real name I have known for quite a long time is Beat Takeshi.
Last time I will bump this. I'm still surprised I can't find any fans of his.
From Midnight Eye:
The Midnight Eye interview with Kinji Fukasaku
Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp said:
He changed the face of Japanese action cinema forever with Battles Without Honour and Humanity and its many offspring in the early seventies, but the last two decades Kinji Fukasaku's career increasingly became that of a journeyman director, albeit a very successful one. Now with Battle Royale, the film that shocked a nation with its violent portrayal of a future society where juvenile delinquency is eradicated by extreme means, the director is back doing what he does best. Even at 70 years old, Kinji Fukasaku continues to make films that shock, grab and disturb the viewer.

From Midnight Eye:
Tom Mes said:
International acclaim and recognition for his work may be far less than that received by Akira Kurosawa, Seijun Suzuki or Shohei Imamura, but there has been no director in the history of Japanese cinema whose films have been as consistently successful as Kinji Fukasaku's. Though his status in the West may be relatively (and undeservedly) obscure, Fukasaku's films have had a major impact on Japanese cinema, both in and outside the mainstream.

From Screen Daily:
Toei plans 3D version of cult thriller Battle Royale

Liz Shackleton said:
The 3D version of the original will be ready for market screenings in October and released in Japan on November 20.

Japanese studio Toei is preparing a 3D version of Kinji Fukasaku’s cult action thriller Battle Royale (pictured), which is one of the widest selling movies ever from Japan.

Released in 2000, the gore fest grossed $26m in Japan and sold to 35 territories worldwide. At the time of its release, Japanese politicians attempted to ban the film which depicts a group of delinquent students hacking each other to death on a deserted island.

Fukasaku’s son, Kenta Fukasaku, is supervising the 2D to 3D conversion in Tokyo through this production company Fukasaku-Gumi. Kinji Fukasaku passed away in 2003, so Kenta took over directing duties on a sequel, Battle Royale 2: Requiem, which was released later the same year.

The 3D version of the original will be ready for market screenings in October and released in Japan on November 20. Like the original, the 3D version will have an R-15 rating in Japan.

Toei is also launching sales on Zebraman 2: Attack On Zebra City, a sequel to Takashi Miike’s 2004 hit, starring Show Aikawa and Riisa Naka.

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