Wednesday, November 24, 2021


This is the first of several yakuza pics by Kinji Fukasaku that bridged the ninkyo eiga he seemed to eschew in the '60s with the jitsuroku that put him on the map during the '70s. Since I prefer the former while admiring his trailblazing contributions to the latter, I find these transitional films his most interesting. Originally titled KAISAN SHIKI [DISSOLUTION CEREMONY], it opened in Honolulu on June 5, 1967 as FALLING OUT and was booked a few times at the Toei-owned Linda Lea Theater in downtown L.A. in the early to mid '70s, but has been one of Fukasaku's more sought-after films in recent years. The English-subbed version that turned up on YouTube over the summer carries the title CEREMONY OF DISBANDING.

Kimono-clad Sawaki (Koji Tsuruta) emerges from prison eight years after killing the head of a rival clan over a land dispute to find his group disbanded and all of the chiefs now wearing suits and pretending to be legitimate businessmen. Kubo (Kyosuke Machida), for example, runs a so-called talent agency that gets its clients - naive young women who want to be singers - hooked on junk so they can work off their debts stripping and hooking in Okinawa dive bars. The landfill Sawaki killed for now houses an oil complex and factories that billow pollution into the air, a deal that only benefited his friend Shimumura (Fumio Watanabe), whose construction company is presently at odds with another former yakuza chief, Sakamura (Hosei Komatsu), and a corrupt congressman (Nobuo Kaneko) over a similarly shady land deal. One of the soon-to-be-displaced tenants is Sawaki's ex-wife Mie (Misako Watanabe), who wants nothing to do with him and has kept the existence of their son a secret. Another is Dr. Omachi, who runs a free clinic on the land and once saved Shimamura's life, but is now caught between the two opposing groups.

Into this typically busy plot saunters Sakai (Tetsuro Tamba), another chivalrous sandals-and-kimono man from another era, who's out to settle the score with Sawaki for chopping off his arm during that pivotal raid eight years earlier.

“A showdown?” Sawaki says, genuinely surprised when Sakai tosses a tanto to him along with the challenge. “I haven't heard that word in a long time. I thought all the yakuza had moved on to other jobs. I didn't think there were any left.”

“I guess I'm old-fashioned,” Sakai responds, “unfortunately for you.”

A look of relief passes over Sawaki's face as he prepares to unsheathe the blade. “No – I haven't felt this happy since I got out of jail.”

No comments: