Mobsters' Confessions (Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Shunsuke Matsuoka, Shingo Tsurumi and Amiko Kanaya
Artsmagic Ltd
RRP: $24.95
Certificate: Not Rated (USA) / 18 (UK)
Available 30 January 2006 (USA)

Asakawa Jiro is a small time confidence man with big ambitions. Operating outside of the Yakuza, he sets up a sting on a local factory; things seem to be going well until he is recognised by Kumiko, though he, in turn, recognises her as the arsonist who set fire to the factory. Instead of mutually unmasking each other they join forces in a series of audacious cons. Completing the crime trio is J a violent but dim-witted heavy who attempts to look after both of them...

Mobsters' Confessions (Gukodu Zangeroku) was released in nineteen-ninety-eight. Directed by Mochizuki Rokuro, who previously released the critically acclaimed Onibi (The Fire Within) for which he won the Kimema Junpo Award for best director - an award which he also received for Koi Gokudo and Mukokuseki No Otoko. He remains an influential director in Japan and, with the recent increase in western interest in Japanese movies, finally we are getting access to a great director and story teller.

Like many Japanese films of the era, Mobsters' Confessions was adapted from a manga; in this case one created by Kono Takeshi, which itself was adapted from the original novel by Asada Jiro. Mobsters' Confessions does not betray its comic book roots - embracing many of the framing traditions found in manga. The introduction of the Yakuza bigwigs is a case in point, each are introduced as a black and white still shot which could have been pulled straight from the original manga. Japanese cultural love affair and obsession with manga is reflected in Jiro's need to categorise people, as to whether they are like him or not, with the simple choice as to whether they prefer Akira or not. In an unfortunate scene Kumiko fails to choose Akira and is battered to the ground for her trouble.

Matsuoka Shunsuke plays Jiro with a great deal of passion, though that passion is often confused. Quick to anger and not above random acts of violence, Jiro is a character that on the surface would use anyone, in any way, to achieve his desired ends. However, in Kumiko, played by Kanaya Amiko, he finds something else, the possibility of love. The problem is that love is based on trust, how can two people whose very existence relies on falsehood and lies find any common ground where they could trust each other enough to fall in love? Jiro even lies to himself to allow for the use he makes of Kumiko, as a sex object, to be used and traded in his various schemes. Only when they make love is there an abiding need in him to trust her. In scenes bordering on sexual violence Jiro literally strips away her clothes, her disguise and artifice in an effort to get to the very core of her being. Finally, he puts himself in harms way to save her life, but it turns out to be a gesture that comes a little too late for their relationship.

The only character that seems to see through the falsehoods, that Jiro and Kumiko have surrounded themselves with, is J played by Tsurumi Shingo. He revels in all aspects of their relationship and through his bond of loyalty tries to keep the lovers safe and together. This is not as easy as it sounds as J is a bit of an idiot. Tsurumi creates a truly comic character, which would be funny in any language. Half the time when watching the film I lost track of the subtitles as I was laughing too much as I kept my eyes glued on J. The other main characters Moriyasu (Kurnuma Hiromi), Daimon (Yamamoto Ryuji) and Kamewada (Hino Shohei) are played faultlessly by their respective actors, but this film belongs to the unlucky trio.

The sound and picture on the disc are both fine but what really adds to the movie is an extensive in depth interview with the director. I would really advise anyone wishing to get the most out of the film to watch this first.

If you like gangster flicks, comedies or good film making in general, get the film, I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

Pete Boomer

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Region 1 Edition

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