THE YAKUZA
1975, Warner Bros., 112 min, USA, Dir: Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack directs this potent, poignant thriller that blends American neo-noir and the then-peaking Japanese yakuza film genre. Robert Mitchum is a world-weary private eye who joins up with a taciturn kendo instructor (yakuza movie icon Ken Takakura), who has a wartime obligation to Mitchum. Likewise, Mitchum owes past wartime comrade Tanner (Brian Keith) a favor as well, and it’s a humdinger: Rescue Tanner’s kidnapped daughter in Japan. A labyrinthine plot is set in motion, and soon Mitchum and Takakura become embroiled in a horrifying series of double crosses and mixed signals that result in a trail of bloody retribution. Adapting the story by Leonard Schrader, Paul Schrader and Robert Towne wrote the moody screenplay. Co-starring Richard Jordan (THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE), Keiko Kishi, Herb Edelman, Eiji Okada. The sleek production design by Stephen B. Grimes not only evokes the spartan Japanese lifestyle but also amply reflects an atmosphere where cold, serpentine violence can strike from the darkness like a coiled viper. “Mitchum is at his laconic leaden-eyed best as the private eye who is forced to team up with a reformed criminal played by Takakura, an icon of the Japanese gangster genre … there are enough double-crosses to satisfy the most jaded fans of the genre.” – Channel 4 Film (U.K.)


CROSSFIRE
1947, Warner Bros., 86 min, USA, Dir: Edward Dmytryk

Robert Mitchum, Robert Young and Robert Ryan lead the cast in this noir-tinged drama, among the first Hollywood films to confront anti-Semitism. When a Jewish man is murdered, a homicide detective (Young) focuses on a group of former soldiers, while an Army sergeant (Mitchum) conducts a parallel investigation to clear his friend of the crime. Costarring Gloria Grahame, CROSSFIRE earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.


RYAN’S DAUGHTER
1970, Warner Bros., 187 min, UK, Dir: David Lean

Initially planned as a return to the small-scale storytelling of David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER days, RYAN’S DAUGHTER instead became an epic contest between the director and the Irish landscape, as he attempted to tell the tragic story of a married Irish woman (played by Sarah Miles, wife of the film’s screenwriter, Robert Bolt) and her affair with a shell-shocked British soldier (Christopher Jones). A flawed gem, the film boasts some great performances (John Mills, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and Leo McKern) and some still-underrated ones (Robert Mitchum, as a meek schoolteacher). Freddie Young’s astonishing cinematography ranks with his best work on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO.


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