As part of Movie City Tokyo, FilmInFocus looks at a list of 10 diverse movies shot in Japan’s capital by Western filmmakers.
Slide 6: The Yakuza (1974)
Based on an original screenplay by brothers Paul and Leonard Schrader (with additional writing by Robert Towne), The Yakuza is notable for its in-depth understanding of Japan and its culture. Directed by Sydney Pollack, the movie stars Robert Mitchum as retired private eye Harry Kilmer, who fell for a Japanese woman and saved her and her daughter life’s while stationed in Tokyo during WWII. When an old friend's daughter is kidnapped by the yakuza (the Japanese mafia), Kilmer is asked to contact the brother of his former lover, a yakuza member, because of the giri (or lifelong debt) he owes to Kilmer. Pollack's movie stresses the strides made in Japan since the 1940s, and also the radical differences between Japanese and American culture and ideologies, as personified by the strained alliance between Kilmer and Ken (Takakura Ken), his ex-lover's brother. This particularly memorable line encapsulates these national differences: “When an American cracks up, he opens up the window and shoots up a bunch of strangers. When a Japanese cracks up, he closes the window and kills himself. Everything is in reverse.” Paul Schrader would make another Tokyo movie – this time as director – with the 1985 Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.