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Detective Maiku "Mike" Hama (Masatoshi Nagase; Mystery Train) navigates the Yokohama underworld with razor sharp threads, Belmondo cool and two-fisted street savvy. But when he comes to the aid of a Taiwanese waiter at a local mah-jongg parlor, the unflappable Hama has no idea what he's in for. Though seemingly a luckless immigrant teetering on the threshold of Yokohama's gutter, Hama's Taiwanese client holds the secret to a ferocious gangland revenge triangle that soon has bullets, fists and severed fingers flying. Hama's plunge into a dizzyingly escalating, brutally violent multiethnic gang war ultimately snares him in a web of revenge and deceit that spans continents and severs bloodlines. Things aren't what they seem in director Kaizo Hayashi's glorious black and white widescreen valentine to French New Wave, American Film Noir and Japanese gangster flicks. Though a hard-boiled P.I. in the Spillane mold, Hama is really all heart and as likely to trip over his kid sister's apron strings as trip up a two-faced gangster. Once he's out of his movie theater office and on the case, Hama becomes a punching bag for everyone from corrupt cops to Yakuza thugs and even his detective mentor (Seijun Suzuki regular Shishido Jo). Though The Most Terrible Time in my Life begins as a meticulous and sly parody of all things Noir, it is "at heart a work of infectious, unironic affection." (The Village Voice). Hayashi's shadowy retro gloss and self-made hero decorate a very real portrait of shifting allegiances in a modern Japan of ebbing compassion and a modern Asia with vanishing borders.

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KI3362 Most Terrible Time in My Life, The DVD (1993/Kaizo Hayashi) $19.95 $17.99