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'Graveyards of Honor' (2-Disc Special Edition)
(Tetsuya Watari, Tatsuo Umemiya, Yumi Takigawa, Ryo Amamiya, Narimi Arimori, Yoshiyuki Daichi, et al / 2-Disc Blu-ray / R / 2020 / Arrow Video - MVD Visual)

Overview: Two peerless masters of Japanese cinema Kinji Fukasaku (Battles without Honor and Humanity, Battle Royale) and Takashi Miike (Dead or Alive, Audition) present their own distinctive adaptations of yakuza expert Goro Fujita s gangster novel 'Graveyard of Honor' - each tapping into the zeitgeist of a distinct period of Japanese history.

Based on the true story of Rikio Ishikawa, both story lines follow a self-destructive man who becomes a powerful member of the Japanese mafia, but quickly loses his self control.

Blu-ray Verdict: First up is Kinji Fukasaku's 'Graveyard of Honor' (1975), which is a fantastic entry into the yakuza genre or, for that matter, the gangster genre in general.

However, more so than many of its counterparts, it is an excellent Brechtian character study. Filmed in a "mockumentary" style, 'Graveyard of Honor' breaks up its action and storytelling relatively often with bits of narration, setting the events of the film in their period context and transitioning over long gaps in time.

The Japanese gangster film is far more presentational than its western counterparts. From the bright, red, paint-like blood to the strict characterizations and operatic emotions, 'Graveyard of Honor' (and other films like it) are a sort of midway point between Kabuki theater and French nihilism.

It is an intriguing genre, and one that internationally acclaimed director Kinji Fukasaku uses brilliantly to pose intriguing questions and point out crucial problems in the Japanese mindset of the time.

As for the film itself, well, overall, this tough and seemingly soulless beast of a man who is feared by even his criminal peers, is also a pitiable creature unable to find any joy in life.

Tetsuya Watari is brilliant in his role of the uncontrollably violent yet pitiable maniac criminal. The only truly likable character in the film is Ishikawa's girlfriend (played by the beautiful Yumi Takigawa), who sticks with Rikio, the man who has raped her and made her a prostitute.

The supporting cast includes many familiar faces for fans of Japanese cinema, including Eiji Go (Tokyo Drifter, The Executioner, etc.) and the beautiful Exploitation-Princess Reiko Ike (Sex And Fury, Female Yakuza Tale, etc.), and is someone I am a big fan myself.

Then we get director Takashi Miike's 'Graveyards of Honor' (2002), which is a rather straightforward Japanese Yakuza thriller redo with a hefty dose of violence.

However, this violence is less comic-style than in Miike's best work Fudoh, Dead or Alive or Ichi the Killer. The violence comes across as raw and real which gives the film a gritty edge that reminded me more of the classic Yakuza flicks than of a Miike film.

There are occasional outbursts of over-the-top-Miike-isms (the final "fall" of the hero, a throat-slicing scene, etc.), but they are limited to a few scenes.

Another Miike-trademark in the film will be as problematic as ever: The harsh treatment of women. The hero's first contact with his future wife and the beating of said wife later in the film did strike me as particularly unappealing.

However, I felt that in 'Graveyards of Honor', men and women get treated the same way - badly that is. No one gets away clean in this film and to label Miike a chauvinist (or whatever names circulate the web) would actually be far more appropriate with some of his other films! This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Exclusive two-disc set featuring two different versions of Graveyard of Honor: the 1975 film by Kinji Fukasaku and the 2002 film by Takashi Miike
Limited edition packaging featuring newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on both films by Jasper Sharp
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless Japanese PCM 1.0 mono soundtrack
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary by author and critic Mark Schilling
Like a Balloon: The Life of a Yakuza, a new visual essay by critic and Projection Booth podcast host Mike White
A Portrait of Rage, an archival appreciation of Fukasaku and his films, featuring interviews with filmmakers, scholars, and friends of the director
On the Set with Fukasaku, an archival interview with assistant director Kenichi Oguri
Theatrical trailer
Imagery gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original lossless Japanese PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary by Miike biographer Tom Mes
New visual essay by author and critic Kat Ellinger
Archival interview special featuring Miike and cast members Goro Kishitani and Narimi Arimori
Archival making-of featurette
Archival making-of teaser
Archival press release interviews featuring Miike, Kishitani and Arimori
Archival premiere special featuring Miike, Kishitani and Arimori
Theatrical trailer
Imagery gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan

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