Saturday, 15 September 2012

Rope and Skin (1979) Shogoro Nishimura

Rope and Skin was the final film of the phenomenal Naomi Tani and fittingly it's about retirement. Specifically that of Red Cherry Okuma, gambler, fight and all round righteous lady about town. Unfortunately during her final game she embarasses a crooked boss, helping incite a perilous spiral of violence and degradation bound to leave no one unscathed. Interestingly the film rather brings to mind a Toei production with its warring gangs, honor pitted against avarice, flashes of bloody violence and sparse but skilfully evoked period setting. The mean tone and sexual humiliation is all Nikkatsu though, and the storytelling typical of director Shogoro Nishimura with its moments of tenderness cut down by cruelty and a strong relationship between females in which one lady suffers to protect the honor of the other. I'm not sure I'm completely convinced by the combination of pinku tropes with more family friendly bloody period revenge drama since the former genre tends to rely on titillation via dubious sexual morality and the latter is concerned with satisfactions of a moderately more noble kind in the felling of evil, and the sexual stuff is a bit pat (save a bit of amusing use of foodstuffs), but there's a fairly satisfying amount of nudity and the action is efficiently choreographed, the two combining with a swift pace to make an entirely watchable experience.

Naomi Tani is ace as ever, performing with nobility and stoicism with a certain hard edge that allows her to convince in action scenes despite lacking the fierceness of a Reiko Ike. Yuri Yamashina projects an affecting wounded nobility as the much wronged Yukiyo, daughter of the good boss of the film, Shohei Yamamoto is appropriately intriguing as mysterious good guy Mr. Hanai, there's a small but moving role pinku notable Junko Miyashita and the villains are suitably crass and hateful. The overall relative lack of shock and insanity here is a definite setback (though for some it may be a plus I suppose) but all in all this is still a quality work and since things never get too graphic there are no appearances for the dreaded beaver blockers that curse many a film of this kind. Well recommended to both established genre addicts and newcomers alike then, and the fact that I wasn't tremendously impressed by it really says more for the general high standards of the genre than any great problems with the film itself.

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