Films in 2012 #23: The Yakuza (Sydney Pollack, 1974).

When I watched this film, I felt vaguely impressed by it. Now it’s up there in my top ever films. The fact that it’s shamefully underrated, underknown and underappreciated helps; I’m like that. Even so, it has reason to be rated, known and appreciated. It’s excellent.

Stylistically unfaltering, it’s infused with feelings and themes of painful nostalgia for a violent past, and manages to deal with such abstract notions of friendship, loyalty, honour and betrayal in an unexpectedly heavy and physical way. The scene at the end where <SPOILER> Robert Mitchum cuts his finger off </SPOILER> is a masterful symbolic encapsulation of the film as a whole. Robert Mitchum himself is a fantastic vessel for the film’s feel; his face and demeanour have “let’s get it over with… again” written all over them. Interestingly, he chose Pollack over Robert Aldrich to direct. Another side-note: written by Leonard Schrader (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), then rewritten by Robert Towne (Chinatown).

Very, very recommended.


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