Sunday, January 25, 2009

Eastern Promises and yakuza movies

Watched David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. Great film. That didn't surprise me, as I loved A History Of Violence, too.

What surprised me - took me unsuspecting-like - was how much it seemed to draw from yakuza movies. F'rinstance: the big fight scene in the steam bath looks like an homage to the public-bath brawl at the beginning of Fukasaku Kinji's Gendai yakuza - hitokiri yota (Street Mobster). It's a great scene in the original, and a great scene in Cronenberg's film too. The target's nakedness allows the creepy beauty of the tattoos to work its magic, while adding an almost unbearable awareness of physical vulnerability to the scene, as the softness of flesh is juxtaposed with the hardness of tiles and the sharpness of blades; the key is that the attackers, in both films, are wielding knives, not guns.

Even aside from that specific scene, the movie plays like a yakuza flick; not one of Fukasaku's revisionist, nihilist works but one of the classic Takakura Ken ninkyo films. The fetishizing of the tattoo and therefore the body of the gangster, the emphasis on an explicit outlaw code, and the focus on a central character whose essential decency creates problems for him in the life he's chosen: all of this could have come straight out of Shôwa zankyôden.

No comments: