Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wandering Ginza Butterfly Musings

Wandering Ginza Butterfly, a title much easier to say than Gincho Wataridori is one of the films I decided to review for film review book I'm working on sporadically.  5,000 films of all sorts.  I had to pick this one.

When it comes to the 1970s era Toei films, I feel like "mixed bag" is sometimes being too generous.  There's a lot of good stuff out there, but this one has a strange feel to it.  I have heard it lumped in with the pinky violence genre, but I'm not sure if it has enough exploitation to fit in comfortably at the party.  The end heats up, but everything getting there is a more realistic (as close as realistic as Toei in the 1970s could get, at least) than the standard pinky violence stuff.  It's like a tea pot set for a slow boil.  In that sense, it satisfies, but if you go in expecting lots of the standard nudity and violence, you will be sorely disappointed.

I'm not going to write a full-on review here.  I will say, however, that this sometimes feels like it was made for Japanese television, and that really threw me off watching it.  Hell, one of its climaxes involves a billiard game.  I expected Paul Newman to show up at any moment.  (And he does, in a way.)  Watching it made me wonder what the thought process was behind this film.  Did director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi set out to make something that was family-friendly and then decided to spice it up at the end?  Watching the commentary by Chris D. doesn't shed much light on that, either.  If you've listened to his commentary on other films of this ilk, it all starts to sound the same.  He adds a bit of history, but, again, if you heard on commentary ...

I sometimes feel that the entire pinky violence line is good for about four films and little else.  Same with the yakuza films.  You've seen one and you've kind of seem them all.  All that really changes are the faces and locations.  Surprisingly enough, though, even with that criticism of the genres they are still far more entertaining than what is playing at the local cinema today.  They can be wildly inventive and are often highly stylized.  And then something like Wandering Ginza Butterfly comes along and kind of throws you for a loop.  I don't think it's anyone's favorite film, but at the same time it has a subtle realism to it that makes you think it deserves more praise than it has received.

If only there was more blood ...

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