Two peerless masters of Japanese cinema – Kinji Fukasaku (Battles without Honor and Humanity, Battle Royale) and Takashi Miike (Dead or Alive, Audition) – present their own distinctive adaptations of yakuza expert Goro Fujita’s gangster novel Graveyard of Honor, each tapping into the zeitgeist of a distinct period of Japanese history. Set during the turbulent post-war years, Fukasaku’s original 1975 film charts the rise and fall of real-life gangster Rikio Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari, Outlaw Gangster VIP). Shot through with the same stark realism and quasi-documentarian approach as Fukasaku’s earlier Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Fukasaku nonetheless breaks new ground through his portrayal of a gangster utterly without honor or ethics, surviving by any means necessary in a world of brutal criminality. Meanwhile, Miike’s 2002 retelling transplants the story to Tokyo at the turn of the millennium. Less a direct remake of Fukasaku’s film than a radical reimagining of the same overarching premise, Miike’s film captures both the hedonism and nihilism of the modern Japanese crime scene in deliriously stylish fashion, resulting in a fascinating companion piece to the original that nonetheless stands as its own entity. Arrow Video is proud to present these two intertwined but unique crime thrillers from two celebrated filmmakers at the peak of their creative powers.
Based on an ancient folktale, The Ballad of Narayama (1983) was the first of two works from the director to win the prestigious Cannes Palme d’Or. Imamura’s magnum opus depicts the members of an extended farming family eking out their existence in the mountainous north of Japan against the backdrop of the changing seasons before village lore decrees they make the sacrifice of abandoning their aged mother on the top of a nearby mountain when she reaches her seventieth year. Making its HD debut, Zegen (1987) takes a satirical look at Japan’s prewar colonial expansion through the unscrupulous eyes of its flesh-peddler antihero as he establishes a prostitution enterprise across Southeast Asia. Finally, the harrowing Black Rain (1989) details the precarious existence of a household of atomic bomb survivors as, five years after being caught in the blast of Hiroshima, they struggle to find a husband for their 25-year-old niece.
These three works epitomize the director’s almost documentary style of filmmaking, exposing the vulgar yet vibrant and instinctive underbelly of Japanese society through a sympathetic focus on peasants, prostitutes, criminal lowlife and other marginalized figures to explore the schism between the country’s timeless premodern traditions and the modern face it projects to the world.