The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
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That Pigs and Battleships has neither a traditionally happy nor sad ending is further evidence of Imamura's fascination with the lower aspects of human life.
not some dry anatomisation of Japan's post-war ills, but an energetic genre piece, full of rampant criminality and doomed romance, which remains rambunctiously entertaining from beginning to end.
My first film on the Yakuza. Imamura is great at capturing some memorable characters while playing on the tensions between the local Japanese and occupying Americans in the post war period.
"Pigs and Battleships" is surprisingly entertaining and accessible, compared with other films of the Japanese New Wave. Lead actor Hiroyuki Nagato is such a marvel of hyperactive energy that I kept imagining an American remake starring Jerry Lewis.
The setting is the seaside town of Yokosuka, where all the action centers on the interplay between locals and visiting American sailors. Director Shohei Imamura mixes location shoots and studio sets to create a chintzy, carnival-like atmosphere of flashing lights, narrow streets and tourist-trap shops. Prostitutes and organized crime also maneuver in the open, and the neighborhood Yakuza depends on pimping to help fund its larger enterprise: pig farming. This polluted blend of legal and illegal business is not so far from a similar scenario in Imamura's later film "The Pornographers." Nagato's ladder-climbing character is in charge of keeping the pigs fed, but he's a lightweight compared to the fearsome operators who employ him. He's in over his head, and his wary girlfriend Haruko knows it.
Satire runs rampant, and so do the pigs -- the climactic stampede is an unforgettable image.
imamura's early and provocative yakuza film makes a strong statement about japanese postwar society and particularly how the u.s. military presence affects the seaport town of yokosuka. imamura was in full rebellion against his master ozu at this point and the film so shocked nikkatsu studio heads he wasn't allowed another project for two years. while treating serious themes, the film is at the same time wildly entertaining, following the adventures of hapless low level gangster kinta and his more sensible girlfriend haruko, who tries to convince him to leave the life of crime behind for factory work before it's too late. a bit broadly played, it's nonetheless great fun to watch, displaying many trademarks of the director who would become a leading voice of the japanese new wave
"Pigs and Battleships" takes place in a Japanese port city that also serves as host for a major American naval base where several gangs are competing for a share of the profits that are made from such illicit activity as prostitution. Kinta(Hiroyuki Nagato) is a low-level member of one of those gangs and is in charge of feeding their pigs. He looks forward to the promised 150,000 Yen bonus but is urged by his girlfriend, Haruko(Jitsuko Yoshimura), to go straight. She on the other hand is being pressured by her family to take the lucrative position of becoming a rich American's mistress.
"Pigs and Battleships" captures the chaos of the waterfront well, even at the cost of some of the movie's cohesion. Overall, the film serves as a critique of capitalism in general, but more specifically of the American dollar overseas and the true price people have to pay for that hegemony.
(Originally reviewed in the blog section on March 12, 2007.)
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