‘Kanto Wanderer' is about the ‘honourable' Yakuza about as much as the ‘Godfather' films are about the ‘good' mafia. On the surface, the film is a Yakuza drama, but very few crimes are actually committed. That's not a bad thing, since nothing is predictable in this crime saga.
There's sort of a kidnapping, and a quasi-love story between Yakuza thug Katsutu and a mystery woman, along with some gambling-related skullduggery. But all of it melts into an sinister and unreal tone-poem as the film goes on. A good deal of the action is set in a gambling den/hotel in the early 60s, but it might as well be set on a Samurai influenced Mars. Watch the band of colour that appears when Katsutu makes a blood oath, or the way that walls give into the red setting sun after a killing.
The disc is light on extras - there's a trailer and a few liner notes by Tom Mes of Midnighteye.com, but the transfer is stunning, sharp and filled with dark muted colours. This isn't campy Suzuki; it's a genuine art film in the best sense of the term. For a study in crime and gambling, there's an unexpected streak of chivalry in ‘Kanto Wanderer' – it understands the importance of trying to find an honest game.
HVE's Seijun Suzuki collection includes 'Kanto Wanderer,' 'Tattooed Life,' and 'Underworld Beauty.'
© 2004 Michael John Derbecker