Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Afraid to Die |
Actors: Yukio Mishima, Ayako Wakao, Keizo Kawasaki, Eiji Funakoshi, Takashi Shimura
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Legendary/notorious Japanese novelist and cultural icon Yukio Mishima makes a rare screen appearance as Takeo, a young yakuza who reluctantly leaves prison to re-enter a dizzying world of kidnappings, attempted assassinati... more »
A flawless gangster epic
Kevin J. Kennedy | Eaton Rapids, Michigan USA | 09/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was a bit skeptical of a movie featuring novelist Mishima as an actor, but he carries the lead with a swagger. Think of a cross between Bogart and Sean Penn. The story never misses a beat; you will be gripped by its gaudy brilliance right to the end. Visually, this is an excellent transfer to DVD. The sound can be a bit muddy at times, but it never distracts. Great stuff!"
Henry Platte | Boston, MA | 03/16/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's not _bad_, exactly, but I never would have sat through to the end if Mishima hadn't been in it. Overall, I think his performance is pretty solid, and so are the others in the film, but it's not really spectacular; there are better yakuza films out there. Any fan of Mishima should definitely see it, though, for novelty's sake, and bear witness to just how incredibly skinny his legs were."
Yakuza in Love
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 09/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Clearly, the main draw here is Mishima Yukio. Famed author of books such as The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea and Spring Snow; Famed nationalist who saw himself as the last representative of the Samurai spirit, subject of Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters and his own film Patriotism; Living forever in legend for his failed attempt to bravely die by hara-kiri, only to have his skill-less second botch the job. And here he is in a yakuza flick.
We are all curious to see how well he can act, how well the violent and macho persona of Mishima translates to the screen under the direction of Masumura Yasuzo. Masumura himself, director of such great flicks as Giants & Toys, Blind Beast and Manji, was apprehensive about the author's ability to pull it off. He was reportedly quite harsh on Mishima, giving him no star treatment and demanding that he put his all into the role. This thrilled Mishima, who loved both the challenge and the harsh treatment which played to his tough-guy sensibilities, and dove in enthusiastically.
As a movie, "Afraid to Die" ("Karakkaze yaro" or "The Cold-wind Punk"), isn't exactly a treasure. Ostentatiously a satire of the yakuza genre, one wonder's if the satire was intentional or if that was tagged on later by advertising people. The plot is your basic "Yakuza released from jail needs to take his turf back" -scenario played out so well in films like The Wolves. Mishima's character, Takeo, is just a jerk who inherited his position as boss from his father. Takeo is one of the most unlikable protagonists ever to grace the screen, as he is at times a coward, a bully, a woman beater and a rapist. Takeo's big plan involves kidnapping the young daughter of a rival and threatening to kill her if he doesn't pay up, and then sneaking abortion pills into his girlfriend's tea when he finds out she is pregnant. Not exactly a character you are rooting for.
But Masumura is a talented director, however, and manages to pull a good story out of the lackluster script and his non-professional lead actor. Mishima pulls off the role quite well, and it is interesting that his was willing to sink into such a low character. He is not exactly a fluid actor, but by no means embarrasses himself. Wakao Ayako, a regular Masumura actress in films such as Manji and Red Angel, is her usual beautiful and strong self, the very image of an idealized "Japanese beauty" who takes her suffering in silence and still keeps going. Apparently, she suffered more than her character during her scenes with Mishima, who actually struck her during several scenes and bruised her up fairly badly. She couldn't have held too much of a grudge however, as she later appeared in an adaptation of Mishima's "Spring Snow". Shimura Takashi (Ikiru, Seven Samurai) lends the film some necessary credibility, and plays a rare tough-guy yakuza role.
Absolutely worth watching, "Afraid to Die" is an uneven film that overcomes most of its difficulties and has some real flashes of brilliance. Masumura's European-influenced camera frames some really nice scenes, especially the climax which is worth the ticket price right there."
Mishima on Film
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 07/16/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the West Mishima Yukio is probably best known either for his tetralogy The Sea of Fertility or his infamous suicide in 1970 which many believe acted as the end of true protest movements in Japan. However, in his native Japan, Mishima had his fingers in a number of pies including performance on stage, acting in films, and screenwriting. With his star rising, film production companies were anxious to plaster Mishima's face on film screens throughout the nation. Mishima would make is screen debut in Masumura Yasuzo's Afraid to Die (1960). Masumura rose to fame with his Italian filmmaker influenced film Kisses (1957), but either because of the poor script or being forced to work with a non-actor, Afraid to Die is little more than a formulaic dullard of a film.
Afraid to Die stars Mishima as Asahina Takeo a high-ranking yakuza who has been put behind bars for three years for stabbing the leader of a rival gang. Near the time of his release, Takeo states that he does not want to be released from prison because he will certainly be killed by members of the rival gang. His sentiment is strengthened when an assassin is sent to the prison posing as a guest. However, the police are unwilling to keep him so he is set free. Unlike the normal swaggering machismo often portrayed in characters in yakuza films, Takeo is more interested in preserving his own skin than preserving his honor and spends most of the film in hiding. However, he does find himself attracted to young female janitor named Yoshie portrayed by Wakao Ayako, the heroine of quite a number on Masumura films. Takeo somehow gains Yoshie's love through beating and raping her, but becomes concerned when she becomes pregnant because the baby would be something else that could be used against him; after all, he had kidnapped the daughter of the leader of the rival yakuza gang. From this point, the train wreck continues...
Besides a relatively dull plotline, Afraid to Die suffers from an incredibly weak protagonist. As he himself states continuously throughout the film, Takeo is nothing but scum. He rapes and beats the girl he supposed "loves." He beats her again when she does not take the abortion medication, but of course she still loves him and he abandons and treats wrongly others around him. The viewer couldn't care less what his fate would be. However, this film's weakness might also be a glimpse of one of its few points of strength: it portrays gang activity as actions performed by lowly, cruel individuals unlike many program pictures which portrayed gangsters as carriers of older, prewar Japanese traditions, ethics, and mores. However, this aspect does not make Afraid to Die a pleasant film experience. I would recommend this film only for fans of Masumura or Wakao and for those interested in seeing Japan's version of Ernest Hemmingway on film."