12 August 2009 | Witchfinder-General-666
Truly Uncompromising Yakuza Tale
The late Kninji Fukasaku is arguably most widely known for the more recent "Battle Royale" (2000), but the films that have earned him the deserved status as a true master of uncompromising cinema are arguably his gritty Yakuza films from the 70s. Such as the famous "Battles Without Honor And Humanity" films or this disturbing gem called "Jingi No Hakaba" aka. "Graveyard of Honor" (1975). Produced by the great Toei company "Graveyard of Honor" must be one of the most uncompromising and depressing Gangster portraits ever brought to screen, and it is also easily one of the most memorable Yakuza films I've seen. Unlike many other gangster films which somewhat glorify the Mafia, this is a a brutal, uncompromising utterly grim portrayal of organized crime and one criminal in particular. Set in Japan of the late 1940s, "Graveyard of Honor" tells the story of real-life Yakuza Rikio Ishikawa (I don't know how accurate it is, though) in a disturbing and highly memorable manner.
Tokyo, 1946: thug Rikio Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari) outshines all of the fellow members of his Shinjuku Yakuza family - in madness, brutality and irascibility. His spontaneous outbursts of violence are dreaded by both enemies and associates. When he increasingly begins to attack associates and even superiors, he becomes an outcast... Unlike many Gangster characters Ishikawa isn't really likable in any way. He is portrayed as a violent madman who rapes, brutalizes and murders apparently for no reason. However, in a way, one does feel sorry for him. Overall, this tough and seemingly soulless beast of a man who is feared by even his criminal peers, is also a pitiable creature unable to find any joy in life. Tetsuya Watari is brilliant in his role of the uncontrollably violent yet pitiable maniac criminal. The only truly likable character in the film is Ishikawa's girlfriend (played by the beautiful Yumi Takigawa), who sticks with Rikio, the man who has raped her and made her a prostitute. Her story is the doubtlessly most heart-breaking part of the film. The supporting cast includes many familiar faces for fans of Japanese cinema, including Eiji Go ("Tokyo Drifter", "The Executioner", etc.) and the beautiful Exploitation-Princess Reiko Ike ("Sex And Fury", "Female Yakuza Tale", "Criminal Woman: Killing Melody",...) of whom I'm a big fan. The film is brilliantly shot in a very unique style, and seems very realistic and authentic. The violence is brutal, blood and uncompromising as the film itself. Overall, "Graveyard of Honor" is a truly remarkable film that must not be missed. Takashi Miike made a remake in 2002, but although I am a (moderate) Miike-fan I doubt that it's anywhere near as good as this one. This brutal, disturbing, sad and often depressing portrait of a violent madman must be one of the most uncompromising crime films ever made and no lover of Japanese cinema can afford to miss it.