Blackmail Is My Life

"Very Good"

Blackmail Is My Life Review


A nod from Quentin Tarantino to 2000's already-legendary (but apparently undistributable) Battle Royale put then-70-year-old director Kinji Fukasaku on the map for many western audiences. But this prolific Japanese filmmaker, who died in 2003, had long since made himself a name at home as an auteur who favored outrageous style and biting social commentary in his films and, recently, as an alleged tyrant who was prone to throwing memorable tantrums on his sets.

Despite a substantial oeuvre, Fukasaku movies could be hard to lay your hands on, sometimes even in Japan. Thanks to the efforts of Home Vision Entertainment, a sampling of Fukasaku's late '60s/early '70s social comedies has become available on DVD, among them 1968's Blackmail Is My Life.

Welcome back. Blackmail Is My Life tells the story of a Tokyo-style band of outsiders, led by the irrepressible Muraki (Hiroki Matsukata), who find that at the table of Japan's postwar "economic miracle" a place has not been laid for them. They've turned to grift and petty theft to keep their clothes up-to-date and the drinks pouring, but they're as innocent as babies to the bigger scheme of things. (Muraki, in the film's opening shot, jumps exuberantly from the shower and stands bare-assed before his window, part sexy gangster and part little boy.) This naivetŽ is stripped from our hero and his gang in episodes - their criminal exploits grow more ambitious, with a corresponding rise in the severity of the stakes - until they reach the inescapable conclusion that in the world of crime, as in the world of commerce, the old guard tends its own.

Blackmail Is My Life is stylish, and it bumps along with wit and palpable energy. Fukasaku wields his camera with such abandon that you worry for the equipment's physical safety, the psychic welfare of the editor coming next to mind. Talk of the New Wave aside, this marriage of ostensibly "social" material to an off-the-cuff style most closely recalls a disposable edge-of-the-'70s aesthetic, like a Japanese Hell Up in Harlem or Mother, Jugs and Speed. (In case clarification is needed, this is a pleasurable nostalgia for me.) In the lead role, Matsukata projects a just-right mix of grown-up disquiet and adolescent flippancy.

And Blackmail Is My Life is rounded out with a trick ending in which the director fitted an actor with a wildly bleeding wound and turned him loose on the street among unsuspecting bystanders in hopes of catching their genuine reactions. Whether the actor overacted or the blood was too profuse (or too bright red) we'll never know, but in the final product no one present seems to be fooled at all.

Aka Kyokatsu koso Waga Jinsei.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Shochiku Company

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Producer:

Starring: as Muraki, as Otoki, Akira Jo as Zero, Hideo Murota as Seki

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