29 December 2011 | dromasca
Godfather, the Far East version
Blood and Bones is a violent epic story whose hero is a Zainichi Korean which is the name of the ethnic Koreans settled in Japan, many of them during the first half of the 20th century when Korea was under Japanese rule. Director Yoichi Sai's father was a Zainichi Korean, so the social medium must be well known to him. His ambitious project describes the tough life of the community through the story of the life of Joon-pyong Kim who comes as a young and hopeful immigrant before WWII to get enrolled in the Japanese army, and at the return to embark in a life of crime, violence and family abuse which sees his ascension to and decay, while confining most of the action in the space of the same street in the Korean immigrants district.
The ambition of the project and the breath of the epic brought me to mind the parallel to 'The Godfather'. The combination between a family saga and the crime environment may be the same, but there is one crucial difference between Sai's and Coppola's films - while both characters are similarly despicable in crime, the attitudes to their families are radically different. For Coppola's characters family values are at the highest possible level, while Sai's character (magistrally acted by Takeshi Kitano) is a violent tyrant, causing suffering to everybody he gets in touch with, harming them physically and psychically and destroying their lives. It is almost the most perfect study in evil I have seen since Hannibal Lecter, just missing his wit and sophistication.
There is a lot to appreciate in this film, starting with Kitano's performance and that of the rest of the team, passing through the fluent story telling, and ending with the refined cinematography which uses basically the same set for the duration of the action (which spreads on many decades) marking the passing of time with small changes in colors or accessories. It is not easy to follow if you do not absorb easily violence on screen, but otherwise it is a good story and a credible piece of history of Japan and its reflection in cinema whose details I at least have become aware about only now.