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Jingi no Hakaba

Graveyard of Honour
Psycho Junkie

Japan 1975
produced by
Tatsuya Yoshida for Toei
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Tetsuya Watari, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yumi Takigawa, Eiji Go, Noboru Ando, Hajime Hana, Mikio Narita, Kunie Tanaka, Shingo Yamashiro, Reiko Ike, Hideo Murota, Meika Seri, Shunsuke Kariya
screenplay by Tatsuhiko Kamoi, Hiro Matsuda, Fumio Konami, based on the novels Kanto Yakuza Mono and Jingi no Hakaba by Goro Fujita, music by Toshiaki Tsushima

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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From early childhood on, Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari) wanted to be a yakuza, and his ambition soon lands him in jail. Once out soon after the end of World War II, he joins Kawada's (Hajime Hana) gang, but is such a hothead that he gets himself and his gang into trouble a lot, so much so that he repeatedly has to apologize to his godfather and his godfather's boss Nozu (Noboru Ando), a yakuza who wants to make it big in politics. Usually, they forgive him, too, but it gets harder and harder for Ishikawa to accept their patronizing attitude towards him. So eventually, he blows up Nozu's car, just to make his point, and when Kawada wants to force him to apologize by having him beaten up, he attacks and severely injures Kawada. Initially, Ishikawa tries to run but then gives himself up to the police, just to escape yakuza wrath.

After he is released from prison about two years later, Ishikawa is expelled from the yakuza world for 10 years, and only thanks to the help of former cellmate gangboss Imai (Tatsuo Umemiya) is he not killed but manages to escape town to head for Osaka. In Osaka, where he's a nobody, he soon falls to the lure of heroin ...

After a mere year of banishment, Ishikawa returns to Tokyo, but with his newly developed drug habit he has become even more of a troublemaker than before, and eventually he even kills Imai, who has to the last tried everything in his power to keep Ishikawa out of harm's way. It's not long before the police track him down and arrest him with the help of the yakuza, and only his girlfriend Chieko (Yumi Takigawa), a prostitute, remains by his side, and she works her ass off to pay his bail, even though her health is failing. Ishikawa eventually marries her, but ten days later she dies. Ishikawa begins to see the error of his ways only then, and begins to make amends in a clumsy manner, but ultimately, he is cornered next to his wife's gravestone by a group of low-rank yakuza who violently stab him again and again and almost kill him - but only almost, Ishikawa survives to serve his prison term.

Once out, Ishikawa finds nothing worth living for anymore and ultimately throws himself off a building to his death ...

 

In the 1970's, firector Kinji Fukasaku seemingly has set out to single-handedly destroy the image of the noble yakuza, the glamourous gangster - and this film is pretty much the climax of his taking apart the genre: There is nothing glamourous about its hero anymore, he starts as a lowlife who's nihilistic by definition and has no other goal but to become a yakuza godfather, but instead of that he is sent on a downward spiral and never even comes into striking distance of his goal until he takes his life jumping from a building in pyjamas - one of the most glamour-free endings of the yakuza genre as such.

In all, Graveyard of Honour is certainly one of Kinji Fukasaku's more depressing films, but it's a very well-directed film as well, again profiting from the director's trademark verité style, full of mock documentary inserts, sudden outbursts of violence, changes in mood and pace, freezeframes and the like, which all fall into place terribly well here once more.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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