Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Afraid to Die (Yasuzo Masumura, 1960)

On my trip to Japan last year I attempted to round out my journey by reading some Japanese literature; Yukio Mishima's "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea". The powerful impact of the story lead me to discovering the authors other work and the infamous life of the author. Westerners seem to enjoy Mishima more then the Japanese who would prefer you to read Murakami's "Norwegian Wood". Which I later did read, and loved.

But I digress.

Mishima was a complicated and compelling artist who is responsible for many fascinating works in diffrent mediums. Unfortunately "Afraid to Die" isn’t an example of a great Mishima piece.

"Afraid to Die" is an example of Mishima's latter day infatuation with being cool and sexy. The story goes that Mishima offered his acting services to a studio as long as he played a gangster, wore his black leather jacket and met a violent death in the end. The loose plot of "afraid to die" was developed around his requests.

Therefore, much of the movie is Mishima posing, acting awkward and showing off his new refined physic. However, director Yasuzo Masumura injects his standard bizarre characters and plot twists. The film doesn’t glorify the yakuza like a Suzuki film, but rather portrays the Yakuza as honor less scum on the fringe of society. The Mursumura honesty is also the downfall; at no point is Mishima’s character likeable. He is a heartless coward, a kidnapper, and a misogynist, who doesn’t deserve the love of his good woman. The highlight of film is his beautifully filmed death that leaves you with more of a sense of satisfaction then the intended sorrow.

Anyway I would avoid this film even if you are a fan of Japanese New Wave and author Yukio Mishima.

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