One of the best things
about the American Cinematheques
Japanese Outlaw Masters series is that its concept has never become rigid or
limiting. It has something in common with Manny Farbers notion of termite
art, emphasizing commercial filmmakers in disrespected genres who take advantage
of their comparative anonymity in order to test the limits of genre boundaries.
Two of Japans most able directors, Kihachi Okamoto (Sword of Doom
Hideo Gosha (Hunter in the Dark
), are represented in this 10th-anniversary
edition of Outlaw Masters, both with strikingly accomplished pictures Kill!
(1968) and Goyokin
(1969), respectively that have the production polish
of mainstream star vehicles (the mainstream star in both cases being the great
Tatsuya Nakadai). But Goyokin
, about a mercenarys quest to atone for
his role in a massacre of innocent bystanders during a robbery, also uses the
wintry beauty of its staging as an objective correlative for its bleak view
of the inevitable fate of men of violence. Kill!
, meanwhile, has the
high-desert-grunge look of spaghetti Westerns like Sergio Corbuccis Django
(1966); its frontier-town setting is so windy and dusty and decrepit that its
almost comical, like a Will Elder parody of an unshaven-ronin
As an additional enticement, series co-founder, Cinematheque programmer (and
exFlesheaters front man) Chris D. will be signing copies of his new book, Outlaw
Masters of Japanese Film
, at every screening. Its certainly the coolest
movie book on the market at the moment, and probably one of the coolest ever,
and a big reason for that is D.s exemplary self-effacement in the presence
of directors and performers he admires. Old-master outlaws Kinji Fukasaku and
Seijun Suzuki (both represented in the current series), Young Turks Kiyoshi
Kurosawa and Takashi Miike, and iconic performers Sonny Chiba and Lady Snowblood
Meiko Kaji all strut their stuff in D.s lively pages. (American Cinematheque
at the Egyptian Theater; Fri.-Sun., Sept. 9-11. 323-466-FILM.