Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jason goes to SFIAAFF--Day 7

My only day of SFIAAFF at the PFA this year, and it was also the last of the Kiyoshi Kurosawa mini-retrospective, and another double feature of revenge movies.

THE REVENGE: A VISIT FROM FATE is probably Kurosawa's most clearly straightforward genre picture (at least of this retrospective). It opens with two yakuza coming into a house and murdering an entire family. Or most of a family, the youngest son hides upstairs. One of the yakuza finds him, but he's the timid and doesn't want to kill, so he lets the kid live. That kid grows up to be a policeman, played by the inimitable Sho Aikawa (best thing about the Kurosawa retrospective: it has made me a Sho Aikawa fan). He's a good cop, but never carries his gun. Not because he's a pacifist, but because he's afraid of what he'll do with it. He's also a loving husband, but when the yakuza he's after go after his wife, he boils over, quits the force, and he gets his revenge (and of course, it involves the yakuza who killed his family in the beginning). Hard core, straight-faced violence.

Then they shows, THE REVENGE: THE SCAR THAT NEVER FADES, same characters, several years later. Sho Aikawa's character is now deep undercover in the yakuza. Or maybe he's really a yakuza now. All records that he was ever a cop have been destroyed, and he's working his way up the yakuza ladder to take out the head. He's now gone full bad-ass mode, with revenge his only motivation. His quest is complicated both by the multiple layers of yakuza hierarchy, and by the policeman who's trying to find him. But nothing can stop him. He doesn't want revenge, he needs revenge like a junkie needs his fix. Kurosawa said this is his first full expression of his directorial style, and it's hard to argue. Pretty awesome.

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