[box cover]

Kanto Wanderer

Working as a bodyguard for the yakuza, Kasuta (Akira Kobayashi) finds his past catches up with him when a fellow yakuza member sells a teenage girl to a gambler with an unerring ability to win. It seems the gambler's woman, Mrs. Hachi (Hiroko Ito), is the woman who four years prior cheated at another gambling venue, and the result of her chicanery is the scar on Kasuta's face. But Mrs. Hachi's new gambling man is even better and has his own techniques for cheating that fools even Kasuta. Broke, despondent, and working as a croupier, Kasuta engages in sticky business when the flame of attraction is reignited between himself and Mrs. Hiachi. To make amends, Kasuta makes a decisive action to help his boss Izu. Seijun Suzuki's Kanto Wanderer (1963) is a film about (as many yakuza themed films are) "Jingi," a Japanese word that roughly translates to "honor" and "valor." Yet — as critic Tom Mes notes in the DVD's liner notes — Suzuki's approach couldn't be more roundabout or subversive. The film starts with three teenage girls gossiping about their schoolgirl crushes on yakuza, and for a genre defined by heroic bloodshed, little violence happens outside of the movie's last 15 minutes. Indeed, even Kasuta's main heroic act — which is meant to bring harmony to his clan — is undercut only minutes later by the actions of a fellow he was trying to help. For Americans unfamiliar with the genre, much of Kanto Wanderer may not play as it might have for its intended Japanese audience — the picture is rather obviously a commentary on the genre (as Mes notes) of which few of this type have become available stateside (a modern antecedent of which may be seen in Takeshi Kitano's Sonatine). Yet even for those with no knowledge of the traditional Jingi-themed yakuza movies, Suzuki's strong color-palette, his sense of camera, and his dramatic perversities keep the film engaging throughout. Home Vision Entertainment's DVD presents Kanto Wanderer in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby 2.0 Surround in Japanese with optional English subtitles. Extras include a theatrical trailer and a Suzuki filmography. Keep-case.

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