It is difficult to find any precedent for this film in Japanese cinema although Ozu, to whom Uchida was close, produced his Dragnet Girl in the same year but what is even more fascinating is that is difficult to find any convincing precedent anywhere else either. This intriguing film is not much like. It is often referred to as a film noir and that description would seem to suit it very well but this is 1933 and the US film noir barely exists as yet although there are plenty of precursor in the silent films of Lon Chaney and the emergent gangster film. There had even been the first - not very noir - version of Hammett's The Maltese Falcon in 1931 but none of these bear much resemblance to Uchida's film. There had been important precursors too in European cinema Ozu - Lang's M or Jean Renoir's La Chienne being perhaps the most important. There were also some interesting precedents to be found in the German thriller (Hitchcockian avant l'heure) and even already in Hitchcock's own films. But again Uchida's film does not altogether resemble these either.
It does, it is true, bring certain film noir to mind - another reviewer mentions The Third Man but it made me think too of White Heat and Pick-up on Main Street but all these are much later films after the liaison between European thriller and US crime film that occurs principally with the arrival of a large number of German directors and technicians in the US in the wake of Hitler's rise to power.
So how is it that Uchida has anticipated the film noir before it really existed? Ozu's Dragnet Girl by comparison is very much a copy of US film but Uchida's is not and curiously the mélange of western styles (largely I think influenced by German film at this time) and Japanese realism produces an effect remarkably similar to the film noir that would develop from a mix of European and US styles ten years later.
This effect is compounded by the anti-Communist which does not emerge in US film until the forties but which Uchida uses somewhat manipulatively rather as Sam Fuller would in the US. Neither Fuller nor Uchida believed in the Communist conspiracy against the state that they portray (Uchida was so far to the left that he would exile himself to Communist China in 1939) but simply use it as a kind of McGuffin to turn the wheels of the plot.
It is almost as though Ozu and Uchida had made a bet in 1933 as to who could produce the most interesting "cop film" simply as an exercise in style. Uchida's most famous film of the decade, Earth, was, like Ozu's other films, quite different in style (and also serves to separate the two film-makers since Uchida' portrays the life of the rural poor while Ozu increasingly preferred to concentrate on the urban middle class). If there was a bet, I hope Ozu paid up because Uchida wins the competition hands down.
0 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this