Friday, November 13, 2015

CALL OF BLOOD aka OUR BLOOD WILL NOT FORGIVE (1964) - Seijun Suzuki


"That's why I hate yakuza. You're all obsessed with the way you die!"

Call of Blood is Suzuki smack dab in his fertile, experimental period under the Nikkatsu banner, a year after the career invigorating Youth of the Beast and a few years before he really started ruffling studio feathers with Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill. But, if the line above isn't enough indication, in Blood he already seems exhausted with the yakuza genre or, at least, intent on treating its honor-by-gunfire subject matter with something less than reverence.

Calling this film a tried and true yakuza flick may be something of a misnomer. The two lead brothers are actually businessmen and only yakuza "by blood." Their gangster father made their mother promise on his assassination deathbed to raise them as normal tykes so as to escape the family curse. Instead, they go into the ad game, and the first 30 minutes plays more like a boardroom dramedy. One's a smooth operator and the other is kind of a screw up. They both have girlfriends they're reluctant to marry and generally avoid all armed conflict. Until their father's rival yakuza assassin shows up years later to apologize.

Even then, our two sibs do not immediately seek vengeance. For a program actioner with "Blood" in the title, it's quite a while before we see any of the red stuff. The first hour of the film is relatively inert, focusing more on their rote personal relationships. Then older bro gets up to some shady business with the corporate accounts and soon enough that yakuza DNA springs to the fore. Before we know it, our two bros are strapped with gats, and there's an extended shootout in a field of reeds with Dad's old rival clan honcho. It's a pretty well choreographed shootout to boot. At least one of these ad men brothers gets a properly dramatic, honorable yakuza death. My guess is this was much to Suzuki's protest.

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