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“Moodily romantic, yet saturated with an uncompromisingly bleak, noirish worldview… a must-see!” – AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE
Director: Toshio Masuda
Screenplay: Kaneo Ikegami, Reiji Kubota (from Goro Fujita)
Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Kyosuke Mashida, Chieko Matsubara, Mitsuo Hamada, Tamio Kawaji
Another extraordinary, and inexplicably neglected Nikkatsu action movie from the studio's Golden Age, GANGSTER VIP is an object lesson in pacing and characterization, and typifies the "borderless" netherworld in which these fabulously inventive films are based. Toshio Masuda's GANGSTER VIP was the first entry in a six-part series, based on the reminiscences of notorious mobster Goro Fujita. More gritty and realistic than many of the era's yakuza pics, it presented star Tetsuya Watari at his youthful peak, playing a tough, cocky, lonely gangster whose only weapons in a brutal world are his wits and his short sword. He still has dreams, but has to fight through a churning sea of blood to make them real.
Toshio Masuda, Nikkatsu's top director of action films for nearly a decade, called GANGSTER VIP "a youth film that happens to be set in the yakuza world," and its hero "a kid who's become twisted through no fault of his own, who deserves sympathy." Masuda's masterful film is punctuated by taut action sequences, climaxing in a riveting finale that begins with a desperate fight in a nightclub back room. It unfolds minus the usual shouts and grunts, the only sound coming from a female singer crooning obliviously in the next room. The climax is the not standard triumph of gangster right over wrong. Instead it underlines one stark truth: for Goro there is no easy way out of the world that nurtured him.
As with the other two films in this year's must-see Nikkatsu action series, the film is presented in 35mm with a "live" subtitling system operated by the series curator, Marc Walkow of Outcast Cinema. We should emphasize again that this Canadian premiere screening is an unrepeatable, unique event. The chance to see these films is a true one-off that no serious fan of Japanese cinema can possibly afford to miss!