Irezumi ichidai [Tattooed Life] (1965)

Irezumi ichidai (alternately translated to Tattooed Life or White Tiger Tattoo)
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Writer: Kinya Naoi, Kei Hattori
Cast: Hideki Takahashi, Kotobuki Hananomoto, Hiroko Itô, Akira Yamauchi, Masako Izumi

Plot:
Tetsutaro (Hideki Takahashi) is a yakuza – a job he took so that he could take care of his brother Kenji (Kotobuki Hananomoto), who is a sensitive artist. But when Tetsutaro gets into trouble and is almost killed by his employer, it’s Kenji who saves his life by murdering said boss. And so the two of them find themselves on the run from the police and the gangs, finally ending up working in a mine where they both fall in love.

Irezumi ichidai builds slowly and could have done with a little more cohesion, but its ending won me over and made me finally see Suzuki’s genius.

Even though I did not really get into Tsigoineruwaizen, I wanted to have another go at Suzuki’s movies, in particular on of his Yakuza films. I still haven’t become a fangirl of his, but at least now I understand what the fuss is about.

And that’s all due to this film’s fantastic ending. That really was a thing of beauty: shot in bright colors, beautifully set in scene – it was one of the most amazing fight scenes I’ve ever seen. (Though admittedly not for the fight choreography, more for the way it was filmed.)

Other than that the film was a little too slow and it felt a little too disjointed to really please me. I just would have liked a bit more narrative strength and a bit more tension. Instead it felt more like we got momentary glimpses of how the guys’ lives developped after their flight.

Plus, the red shoes that symbolized one of their pursuers and that kept showing up became a touch ridiculous. Nevertheless – in the end it all comes down to the showdown and I just fell in love with that.

Summarising: A bit slow, but the ending absolutely makes up for that. Which you can watch here, btw. [Spoiler Alert, in case that wasn’t clear.]

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