Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Nikkatsu Trailer Theatre #4:

Although it is not a film that’s received a great deal of love from English language critics, I nonetheless enjoyed Toshio Masuda’s ‘Red Pier’ (otherwise known as ‘Red Quay’ or ‘Red Harbour’, 1958) a great deal.

A more or less quintessential example of Nikkatsu’s ‘borderless action’ formula, this one sees the basic plotline of Julien Duvivier’s classic ‘Pepe le Moko’ (1937) relocated to the port city of Kobe, wherein a jaded Tokyo hitman – rather unconvincingly portrayed by twenty three year old heart-throb Yujiro Ishihara - is hiding out from the cops, as represented by the Colombo-esque Detective Noro (Shirô Ôsaka), whilst also juggling his love-life, as a pouting show-girl (Sanae Nakahara) and a gentle, upstanding fisherman’s daughter (Mie Kitahara) compete for his attentions.

Though it inevitably veers more towards frothy romance and matinee melodrama than proper yakuza business, ‘Red Pier’ is still beautifully designed and shot, with a charming cast, swinging mod nightclubs, bustling scenes of harbor life, much dreamy rhetoric about “sailing over the ocean to freedom” (a telling Nikkatsu trademark), and, crucially, just about enough action to keep the boys in their seats alongside the girls.

It’s not the kind of movie that’s ever going to change anyone’s life, but as a breezy, exuberant popcorn flick full of enjoyable sights and sounds alongside just a touch of melancholy poignancy, it hits the spot perfectly. It’s easy to see why members of Japan’s equivalent of the baby-boomer generation get misty-eyed about these Yujiro movies – watch a few of ‘em, and perhaps you will too.

Nikkatsu’s trailer very much seems to emphasize the ‘tough guy’ angle, beginning by recapping one of my favourite bits in the movie, wherein Yujiro – who is of course portrayed as being preternaturally talented at any activity he turns his hand to – walks into a nightclub and wipes out the rival gang who have been hassling him with a single burst of gunfire that would do The Man With No Name proud. Job done, motherfuckers. A casual scene that scarcely lasts thirty seconds, clearly thrown in as an afterthought to wrap up that particular plotline with a minimum of fuss, I really dug its sheer ballsiness.

1 comment:

Elliot James said...

I haven't seen this film. Masuda was interviewed in No Borders No Limits and talked about it.