aka 俺は待ってるぜ aka Ore wa matteru ze 1957 Written by Shintaro Ishihara
Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
Japan’s cinematic output in the 50s and 60s was astounding, and the quality of films from that period form a reputation that is hard to match. It is no wonder that huge swaths of them got festival coverage over the years, and many get released in the US under premium labels. Nikkatsu Studios produced a whole series of “borderless action” films (as a response to US and French film box office success) and is where Seijun Suzuki made his fantastic flicks, at least until he got fired after constant clashes with the studio head and Nikkatsu later turned into a roman porno factory. But those hundreds of films still exist, and are still awesome. And while many haven’t been seen outside of Japan in forever, the growing appreciation means more and more get releases over time. Hence, I Am Waiting popping up in 2009. I Am Waiting is a tale in two acts. Joji Shimaki (Yujiro Ishihara) meets a mysterious woman at the pier who calls herself Saeko (Mie Kitahara) – we find out later her name is Reiko. It’s clear she’s on the run from something traumatic, and we slowly learn that she is a cabaret singer at a yakuza club and one of the gang members got too frisky, so she bashed his head and ran, thinking him dead. Her dreams of being a singer soured after he vocal chords were ruined by an illness, and now she’s trapped in a contract at the yakuza nightclub. Her time with Joji helps her to briefly escape that life, working as his waitress and hanging out in town with Joji. But she’s recognized, and the yakuza come to reclaim her, until she finishes her contract. She spends the last half of the film again working in the nightclub, which Joji returns to occasionally as part of his story.
While the yakuza are confronting Joji, Joji gets a clue into his big mystery, the whereabouts of his brother. His brother was supposed to go to Brazil a year ago to buy land for a farm, but hasn’t contacted him since the boat left port, and Joji’s letters were returned. But one of the yakuza had a medallion that Joji’s bother carried, and the focus switches to Joji’s mystery as he works to unravel just what happened to his brother, and the culprits work to try to cover up their deeds. Continue reading →
aka ある脅迫 aka Aru Kyohaku 1960 Story by Kyo Takigawa
Screenplay by Osamu Kawase
Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
An arrogant bank manager named Kyosuke Takita (Nobuo Kaneko – The Magic Serpent) is about to move on to the executive board, but gets enveloped in a blackmail scheme and must try to rob his own bank in a desperate attempt to come up with the funds. His sad sack childhood friend Matakichi Nakaike (Ko Nishimura), who Takita has used and degraded, becomes a scapegoat, and soon things devolve into a murderous mess. Intimidation serves up a slow-burning lesson of treating people well, but aside from the tense robbery sequence in the middle, there are few high points to recommend hunting Intimidation down immediately.
You can’t examine Intimidation without seeing the obvious class consciousness of the film. Takita is in the upper echelon of society, who married into money and is set for easy street. His friend Nakaike is stuck on the lower rung, his few opportunities were snatched away by Takita, or twisted around to make it seem Takita was solely responsible for them. Nakaike’s lack of confidence doesn’t help him, and much of his time is spent making excuses for his friend and doing things in the background like warming sake. The bank manager sees Nakaike as an unmotivated chump who they keep around only for Takita’s benefit, sort of ironic due to the manager’s later confession that he doesn’t understand all the loan paperwork that Takita has been handling for him.
Despite the class struggles, Takita’s downfall is he is an arrogant bastard. He’s so used to getting his way and shooting up the ladder of success that he doesn’t care at all whoever he steps on during his climb. Even people who are loyal friends that would have made great companions he treats with disdain, only using them for his own ends. His childhood friend Nakaike seems a complete tool, Takita talking down to him in front of the bank manager. Takita talks like Nakaike owes him everything, and he’s such a screw-up that he’d be on the streets if it wasn’t for Takita. Nakaike’s lack of confidence doomed him to forever be in Takita’s shadow. When Takita’s around, Nakaike fades away and Takita gets all the focus. Continue reading →