Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Female Yakuza Tale (1973)

Female Yakuza Tale is a kind of sequel to Norifumi Suzuki’s superb Sex and Fury but the two films have little in common. Written and directed by Teruo Ishii, Female Yakuza Tale lacks the artistry of the earlier film, and it also lacks the sheer visual brilliance. It also doesn’t have the lyrically beautiful action sequences. What it adds is a hefty dose of serious weirdness, a good deal of near-slapstick comedy, and large quantities of extraordinarily crude humour. Despite its many flaws it does have a kind of cheerful exuberance, and its bad taste has its own strange fascination. And it’s nothing if not off-beat.

Ochô Inoshika, the heroine of Sex and Fury, is back. This time she’s stumbled upon a drug smuggling ring that uses prostitutes to transport the drugs. The drugs are concealed in their vaginas. Ochô makes this discovery when she’s mistaken for one of these couriers and subjected to a painful and humiliating search by a group of gangsters. For some reason that I was never able to fathom one of the several criminal gangs mixed up in these proceedings is murdering and mutilating some of the girls.

The plot is both convoluted and obscure, and the more I tried to figure out exactly what was going on the more confused I became. There’s a yakuza boss who murdered his predecessor. The old boss had done Ochô a very big favour years earlier, so she’s keen to exact revenge on his killer, and she’s also trying to locate the old boss’s missing daughter. The various groups of criminals are all trying to double-cross one another, and there’s an enigmatic figure who may prove to be an ally or an enemy to Ochô. There’s also a lady gang boss, who appears to control prostitution and whose girls are being used, without her approval for the drug-smuggling operations. She also has the potential either to be a friend or an enemy.

The climax involves hordes of naked sword-wielding prostitutes and a chaotic, frenzied, gory but undeniably entertaining fight sequence. Like most of the things in this movie, it’s executed to some degree with tongue in cheek. The madhouse scene is disturbing and effective. And there’s a female assassin with some kind of religious obsession - when she prays, she kills.

Reiko Ike is impressive (as always) in the role of Ochô. She probably takes her role more seriously than the film really deserves. There’s more or less non-stop nudity. The crudity of the film is less offensive in practice than you might expect, since it’s clear that we’re not meant to take any of this seriously. The aim is to provide trashy exploitation fun, and it certainly delivers on the trashiness and the exploitation. Whether it’s fun or not really depends on your taste in humour. If you’re anticipating a worthy sequel to Sex and Fury you’re going to be disappointed. I’ve now seen quite a few of the Japanese pinky violence movies, and this one is unquestionably the weakest I’ve seen so far. It has its moments, and it’s probably worth a rental if you’re a fan of Japanese exploitation cinema.

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