Saturday, March 24, 2018

Underworld Beauty

"Do Diamonds Really Burn?"

(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off the Home Vision Entertainment DVD of the film.)


Over and over in Suzuki we'll see a bar or café with a backroom full of gangsters, but Underworld Beauty [Ankokugai no bijo, 1958] is the earliest example I can remember. This movie is ahead farther in its demimonde portrayals and youth-culture reckoning (equating the two at least in regard to material deemed ripe for cinema) than the French New Wave or Samuel Fuller, though the latter had staked a starting-point for the trajectory even as early as the mid-'50s.

A guy named Miyamoto (Michitarō Mizushima) gets out of jail, he was serving time over something to do with three chunky diamonds. (Mizushima is the best actor besides Jō Shishido in all the early Suzuki films.) His character visits his accomplice Mihara (Tōru Abe) who runs an oden stand with his sister Akiko (Mari Shiraki); Mihara took the fall that landed Miyamoto in prison, and now operates with a gimp leg. He was never a bad guy, and all these years has kept his head down in the business, even as Akiko flails like a dipso-nymph in capris, not unappealing. History repeats itself, Mihara swallows the diamonds, stashed all this time, in a deal led by Miyamoto that goes wrong, and takes another fall, off the side of a building in suicide — as much out of honor as to end his crippled existence. Akiko's lover Arita (Shinsuke Ashida) cuts the diamonds from Mihara's shrouded gullet during the vigil he holds with the body on behalf of himself and the sister, who has gone off to cope by getting shitfaced with an American sailor. When she comes back to the hospital, she cracks open Mihara's coffin and pours whiskey all over the corpse's face.

Eventually she'll come into the diamonds and tamp them down into the clay of a pre-fired mannequin's tit.

The final ten minutes find Akiko and Miyamoto ("ojisan") locked in the competitors' basement, the bad guys shooting up boiler tanks and the protagonists forced to shovel coal out a shaft to free up an escape-route. Akiko emerges onto the street; Miyamoto gets gunned down bare-backed by a detective after his offing of big-boss Ōyane (actor who?). The ending sees Miyamoto recovering in a hospital bed with the implication that he and Akiko may get something hot started yet before his time to serve. Somehow, she, and this movie, constitute an Underworld Beauty.


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Ankokugai no bijo [Underworld Beauty, 1958]

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Kemono no nemuri [The Sleep of the Beast, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]

Akutarō [The Bastard / The Badboy, 1963]

Akutarō-den: Warui hoshi no shita demo [Stories of Bastards: Even Under a Bad Star / Stories of Badboys: Even Under a Bad Star, 1965]


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