What Rex Baylon said. Also, he got screencaps, while I was unable to.
So this is another yakuza film by Kinji Fukasaku, whose Yakuza Graveyard I watched last week. This one is based on a real life yakuza named Rikio Ishikawa, who lived and died in the post-War period. The film has elements of documentary to it, using still photos, for example, to give us Ishikawa’s background. What’s remarkable about the film, as Rex Baylon details, is the nihilism. This is not a gangster’s rise and fall. Ishikawa never rises, at least in terms of power or status. He is a violent sociopath who impulsively rapes, murders, and steals without much rhyme or reason. To say that he doesn’t follow the yakuza code of honor doesn’t even begin to get at what’s going on here. This is about a person who is so damaged and emotionally deformed that he’s more or less a monster. Yet Fukasaku is sympathetic to his plight. It’s not that Ishikawa has his reasons (à la Renoir), although the film hints at possible causes in Ishikawa’s traumatic childhood. Fundamentally, however, it’s that humans aren’t creatures of reason. We are creatures of instinct and impulse and pain and the selfish will to live.
It’s a powerful portrait, although I think I prefer Yakuza Graveyard as a film. Maybe this one was too bleak for me. Maybe I need a little tragic romanticism to soften the blow. Takashi Miike made an updated version in 2002, which I’ll try next. I’m scared!