Set in Nagoya in the late nineteenth century, the film revolves around Hibotan no Oryū, a young and beautiful “female gambler” who gets apprenticed to the Nishinomaru, a local yakuza under constant threat of the Kanahara, a rival yakuza in collusion with a powerful politician, Furuta. Jirō, a son of the Nishinomaru’s boss, is in love with Yaeko, a daughter of the Kanahara’s head. With the help of Hanaoka, the Kanahara’s lieutenant, Oryū helps the young couple run off together to Osaka, which instigates the all-out violent war between the two syndicates.
Ever since the success of the French crime film Zigomar in 1911, the Japanese film industry has produced numerous movies depicting criminals and the detectives who try to apprehend them. Chivalric yakuza, modern mobsters, knife-wielding molls, hardboiled gumshoes, samurai detectives, femme fatales, and private eyes populate Japanese cinema, from period films to contemporary dramas, from genre cinema to art film, from the work of genre auteurs like Makino Masahiro to masters like Kurosawa Akira. Cinematic representations of crime have served in Japan to draw the boundaries of society and the nation, define the nature of reason and epistemology, shape subjectivity and gender, explore the transformations of modernity, and even express the desire for political transformation. Surprisingly, little of this rich lode of cinema has been introduced abroad. This series, co-sponsored with the National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, will present some of the masterworks of Japanese gangster film, detective cinema, and Japanese noir, in subtitled archive prints that have rarely been seen abroad. The series will conclude with a symposium featuring an international panel of experts on Japanese crime film, and a world premiere screening of a newly struck English subtitled print of the classic gangster melodrama, CHUTARO OF BANBA. All films are in 35mm with English subtitles. This is the fifth of 10 films.
Still courtesy of Toei.