25 November 2015 | mevmijaumau
Escape from Japan (1964)
Escape from Japan was the movie that made director Kiju Yoshida finally part way with Shochiku studios, after they cut the final scene of the film. This is a very unusual movie for Yoshida; not only because it's a crime/thriller film, but also because it's not very serious in tone and almost seems like a parody of stylish gangster films that Seijun Suzuki used to make.
The criminals in this movie are far from the usual suave cinematic gangster; the protagonist is hysterical, paranoid and emotionally unstable, while his friend is a junkie who cannot function without drugs. The supporting characters are nothing to write home about and the plot is nothing special. The story is infused with questions regarding Japanese cultural identity. The film is set during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and contains many elements of American influence, ultimately wondering if the overwhelming americanization of the country was positive or not.
The intro and the outro feature colorful abstract paintings for whatever reason, while a saucy jazz piece, typical for a Yoshida film, plays over it. The jazzy Toru Takemitsu soundtrack is heard all the time in the film, while the characters share some traits from American culture, like flipping the bird. There are some errors regarding the English language in this film, particularly the atrocious acting of the two guys playing American soldiers later in the film (the white one sounds like he's never spoken English before because his lines just sound so weird), and there's a huge sign saying "WELL COME TOKYO OLYMPICS", which made me chuckle. Maybe this was done on purpose to underline the idea that Japanese people don't resonate much with the English language, but Yoshida's later film Farewell to the Summer Light had the same problem so those are probably just lazy goofs.
The visual style is somewhat reminiscent of a Suzuki film because of unusual color compositions in some scenes, but for the most part it carries the usual Yoshida style, except for an abundance of overhead shots and rapid zooms. The image quality is too dark and the story is rudimentary and quite dull to follow. It's very roundabout and unpolished, boring at times. My least favorite Yoshida film so far.