Fortunately, not only is the tale the director tells coherent, but it is also nicely told. Ishii largely avoids veering off into nonsense, while, at the same time, still managing to create a narrative that is complex enough to keep the viewer captivated. The story is, in fact, so alive with cruelty, suffering, and anger, and so able to engage the moviegoer with its characters, that this viewer will certainly find himself immersed in their universe and experiencing their emotions with a genuine poignancy.
What is more, the movie's frequent fight scenes are exciting. While they are generally not brilliantly choreographed, they are brutal, energetic, and often sexy. In the opening sequence, for instance, Ocho, while walking through the rain, is accosted by a gang of sword wielding men. As she fights back, her clothing loosens and soon falls off of her, so that, for much of the battle, she is leaping about naked through the downpour slaughtering her foes. This is not, however, the only action sequence in the film. Later, for instance, Jyoji kills a couple of Goda's men by throwing bullets at them, striking one in the nose and another in the eye. It is, however, the final battle of the movie that is, perhaps, the best. In this, the prostitutes who had been used as mules by the yakuza surround their victimizers in a warehouse, strip naked, and attack them. They then go on to defeat their enemies in a bloody sword fight. The scene is, at once, sexy and thrilling.
From what I have already said, it should be obvious that Female Yakuza Tale is wonderfully lurid. Not only do the film's actresses often remove their clothing and bounce around for the camera, but there are also several sex scenes and a number of viciously exploitative moments. As I mentioned before, women repeatedly charge naked into battle against their enemies while brandishing katanas, so letting the viewer admire their jiggling bosoms and buttocks as they leap about, kill their enemies, or fall to their foes' swords. Besides these depictions of nude combat, Ishii shows groups of prostitutes being stripped, so that a vial of drugs can be inserted into or removed from the vagina of each, as well as several other prostitutes romping in a brothel with their clients. The film is absolutely packed with such incidents.
Although Female Yakuza Tale is not as visually impressive as is Sex and Fury, it still has some gorgeous and psychedelic moments. The opening sequence discussed above, in which Ocho engages, while naked, in a sword fight with a band of opponents while rain falls about her, is quite attractively realized. The director places his characters before a black background, superimposes the vibrantly red credits upon these persons, and has them move about with a sensual grace. Later, when showing the squalid brothels, garbage choked alleys, and graceful homes where poor and rich criminals spend their lives, Ishii conjures up a peculiarly lovely if consistently oppressive fictional world. It is not, however, one that is identical with the real world. At different times, Ishii bathes his actors in garish green lights, places them in sets that are so minimalistic they look like something more likely to be found on stage than in a film, or has them invade a mental institution where the inmates are dressed and behave like mimes. Even the costumes in which he outfits his characters both add to the movie's beauty and its oddness. Many of these individuals are dressed in elegant kimonos, but others wear peculiar, gaudy suits and frocks that seem to combine details from the clothing of the Meiji period with details more appropriate to the 1970s. All of these elements pull Female Yakuza Tale out of the world of history and thrust it into some surreal realm that is entirely its own.
This mingling of the Meiji era with 1970s is greatly facilitated, I cannot fail to add, by the film's funky score. This is truly a product of the decade the film was made and imbues the movie with a giddy silliness that I, for one, enjoyed.
Finally, I should note that the performances of the actors are consistently good. Ms Ike, in particular, is a pleasure to watch. She might not bring the same intensity to her character that she did in Sex and Fury, but she does manage to humanize Ocho somewhat. Here, she reveals a woman who, though strongly motivated by a desire for revenge, is still able to long for simple human pleasures and to have softer emotions.
Female Yakuza Tale is, without a doubt, an exploitation film. It is filled with sex and brutality. Thanks to the skill with which such elements have been brought to the screen, it is also a captivating and beautiful work. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
Review by Keith Allen
© 2008 email@example.com Keith Allen. All rights reserved.