Sunday, October 2, 2011

NYFF 2011: A Colt is my Passport (1967) (Nikkatsu Centennial)

Another film screening as part of this years New York Film Festival Salute to Nikkatsu Studios that is also available on DVD from the Criterion Eclipse imprint.

This time out it's a cynical spaghetti western style tale transposed to Japan and a Yakuza setting. Some may argue that the only thing that is spaghetti western like is the music which apes the scores of people like Ennio Morricone, but the basic story of an antihero who completes his task only to be be double crossed by his employer is pure Euro Western fodder.

The plot has assassin Joe Shishido and his partner asked to kill a crime boss with in a very short time. Told he will only be paid if his employer know the target is dead, Shishido kills him in his employers presence. They are grateful but some what not amused. Told to hide out in a flea bit motel the two assassins are constantly forced to take steps to remain alive as the bad guys come looking for them.

Why this film is considered Noir is beyond me since other than being a crime story the film has none of the hall marks of noir, there are almost no night scenes, there is no femme fatal, there is no doomed hero done in by hubris, nor is there any of the other criteria for being included in the genre.

I could argue that it's a western and make pretty good case for it, from it's music, dusty settings, a fallen woman with a heart of gold, rich bad guys wanting to consolidate power, and a hero who is way smarter and way more resourceful than the poor minions set to kill him. Compare it to any of the Sergio Leone films from the 60's and you'll see what I mean.

If it's not abundantly clear I love this film. To be completely honest I had the Nikkatsu box set for a while, but I wasn't in the mood to see any of it. Then I realized that the film was screening at this years New York Film Festival and pulled out my set. I sat down to watch this and Rusty Knife out of obligation and not genuine desire.

Sometime obligation is a good thing.

Putting the film on before bed I figured I'd watch this for a half an hour and then pick it up in the morning. Then I started to think maybe I should just wait and watch it with my dad...and then I said I'll watch it with my dad, but only after I watch the movie to it's end first.

What a joy this film is.

Smart and funny and tense, this is the sort of film that many recent American films strive to be. Pick any film where you have a hero who turns out to be wiser than the enemy that has come out of Hollywood in the last umpteenth years and you'll see that those films don't hold a candle to this one. Certainly this film is lacking in witty one liners, but when you're this well made a movie one liners aren't needed.

Shot in a beautiful widescreen that really uses the frame to it's fullest potential this is one film I highly recommend seeing on the big screen if you get the chance. Sure it will look good on your big screen at home, but trust me when I say that this really is a movie for a movie theater.(this film has only one screening at the film festival on the 12th at 640pm.)

One of my finds of the year, I suspect that this is going to be a film I return to repeatedly over the years.

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