Saturday, April 2, 2011

A COLT IS MY PASSPORT (Takashi Nomura, 1967, Japan)

Kamimura is a hit man double crossed by a mob boss whose sin is the root of evil but Kamimura swears to a higher moral. Director Takashi Nomura’s gritty but elegant admixture of genre conventions results in an ominous character study of an assassin who holds friendships dear and discovers a bruised love while on the run for his life.

Nomura combines elements of Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, from low angle deep focus shots to extreme close-ups, creating an unreal quality to off-screen space, and scoring the bleak drama with a wonderful soundtrack evocative of Ennio Morricone yet remaining original and distinct. Jo Shishido portrays the hired killer Kamimura with a barely expressive quality imbued with compassion and honesty, his eyes the mirror of the harsh world surrounding him, a man who sells his services…but not himself. The Western influence sweats from every pore of this film (meant as a both genre and Nationalistic sense) and Shishido echoes Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but becomes so much more, an actor with a deeper well to draw from transcending Eastwood’s one-look pose. Influences come full circle, and the final shot as our wounded protagonist walks towards the camera, his fiery vengeance blazing in the background, was seen again years later in another Eastwood flick MAGNUM FORCE. But here, Kamimura doesn’t need to offer any trite explanation because his actions have defined his morality.

The first act is composed of a wonderful sequence where we witness a montage of low angle oblique shots of a building as a car pulls away. The camera lingers near the ground like a criminal hidden from view, then pans slowly backwards until the front tire of another car dominates the shot. As this car pulls away and follows the other, a voice over explains the routine of their intended target. Nomura cuts to a high rise building that looms like an impenetrable fortress, and we are then introduced to Kamimura, the man who must penetrate these formidable defenses. The genius comes at the end of the first act when Kamimura is alone scouting the location, and Nomura utilizes the exact same sequence as our hero begins to formulate a plan. I would expect this film to be inspiration for Tarantino, from structure to theme, subsuming Aristotle’s Poetics into Film Noir expectations!

Kamimura’s fate is left ambiguous but his actions are not, dealing death to those whose ethics are the green of envy and corruption, and with his Colt revolver and his body pierced by lead, he walks forwards towards an unrequited future, Justice began as The Word…but Kamimura has put it in action.

Final Grade: (A)

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