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Joe Shishido plays a tough guy with a secret agenda. His violent behavior comes to the attention of a yakuza boss who immediately recruits him. He soon tries to make a deal with a rival gang a starts a gang war. His real motivations are gradually revealed as we find out how this all ties in with the murder of a policeman shown at the beginning of the film. Written by
Fred Cabral <email@example.com>
Youth of the Beast is pretty much acclaimed, but I just can't appreciate it very much, partly because it's quite a dated film - the 60s, and the execution reminded me of the old 60s Batman and the Green Hornet series, in its noir crime storyline as well as the use of the ol' fisticuffs to settle scores. Not that I didn't enjoy it though, but my smile stemmed more from the cheesiness.
Of course when watching a film from the past, you got to approach it in the context when it was shown in. And it pretty much gave you a glimpse at old Japan, with its production sets, costumes, and acting style - which is exaggerated. Special effects and stunts were quite low key (probably groundbreaking for the era), with some shots suffering from sudden jump cuts, and looking raw. Certain stunts were found to be wanting, but again, for that era, it's adequately executed, though by today's standards, audiences would be more unforgiving.
The violence too didn't let up, and for a Yakuza movie, violence is part and parcel to their lifestyle. There are a number of innovative techniques used, such as the flame from an aerosol can, and the insertion of a blade underneath the fingernail as a torture method to inflict pain. I was surprised too at the raw scratching off upholstery from a sofa set, which seemed quite realistically painful for the actress to perform.
Director Seijun Suzuki actually helmed the movie Yumeji (1991), from which the theme song is used in Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. Here, he crafts the movie from a novel by Haruhiko Oyabu, which could have served as inspiration for Lucky Number Slevin in its playing off mob bosses. Here, Jo Mizuno (Joe Shishido) infiltrates and joins a gang by forcing his way through to the top, beating up everyone and anyone who dare stands in his way.
Impressed, he's given a stint with the gang, and slowly, a mystery begins to unravel as to his motivations and objectives to doing what he does. It plays out rather straightforward, and you would have guessed his intentions pretty earlier on in the movie, but what impressed is how simple it is to style a movie in this manner back in the 60s. Taking seemingly simple everyday locations like nightclubs and cinemas and having shady dealings taking place under a legitimate business front, does seem rather suggestive of how gangsters operate at the time.
I'd pretty much recommend this to those who have high cheese tolerance, or fans of the swinging 60s era movies. Nothing much really to shout about.
The Criterion DVD comes with an essay insert, the theatrical trailer (60s trailers all have those sensational big words covering 90% of the screen, very nostalgic), a 4"48' interview with director Seijun Suzuki, and a 7"56' interview with actor Joe Shishido. For a Criteriod DVD, it's pretty much barebones by standards.
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