Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 19th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Currently in Production
Director: John Foster
Producer: John Foster
Associate Producer: Kozue Tanaka
Writer: John Foster
Cinematographer: Akihiro Matsuura
Editor: Kazuo Kajikawa
Original Score: Kentaro Nojima
Cast: Keishu Tsumagata, Manabu Inoue, Rakendra Moore, Hataro Jurokuhari
Approximate Running Time: 20 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
What possess an American filmmaker to travel from New York to Japan to make a film in a land in which at best his knowledge of the language is minimal.
“I think the thing that I love most about Japan is the incredibly beautiful visual culture you find here. From the architecture of the temples and tea houses to the kimono and makeup of kabuki actors and geisha to the woodblock prints of artists like Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Kawase Hasui – it’s just amazing. There is no place in the world like it, so elegant and striking.” – John Foster
The Premise: Boss Watanabe (Keishu Tsumagata) is clinging to his sanity and control of Kyoto’s yakuza after Boss Aihara (Kuniichi Takami) massacres most of his men in a sneak attack. Holed up in a dingy bar with Uchida (Manabu Inoue) his lieutenant, Watanabe starts to see the mutilated ghost of his dead soldiers. The specters blame him for their deaths and they want revenge. Terrorized by both his inner demons and the threat that Aihara’s thugs will find him at any minute, Watanabe has only one way out: he hires K, an alluring American hit woman, to assassinate Aihara. For the right price K will kill anyone, even her own client.
So what is Elegant Slaughter? It is the first part of five interconnected stories that make up the film Kyoto Nocturnes. John Foster the films director clearly mixing his influences that range from American film noir to the classic yakuza films made by director’s like Kinji Fukasaku in the 1970’s. Elegant Slaughter is blessed with a strong ensemble cast featuring veteran Japanese film & stage actor Manabu Inoue. The lead role of the deranged boss Watanabe is deliriously played by actor Keishu Tsumagata who has been working in Japanese film and television industry for nearly forty years. The film is beautifully lit by cinematographer Akihrio Mastuura with his carefully composed shots that accentuate the colorful locations used for this film. Equally impressive is Kazuo Kajikawa’s razor sharp pacing and editing that helps build tension through the film.
Besides the requisite yakuza genre elements like murder, betrayal and revenge there is some many additional elements added to the genre that add to the films quirkiness. The visions the boss had of dead yakuza. Also the conversations about cutting off a certain part of the male anatomy added some comic relief that perfectly offsets the films darker moments. Rakendra Moore is an interesting choice as the female assassin K. Her portrayal of K is not as well defined as the other performances in the film. This also could be due to the fact that she it a cold blooded killer that we are not meant to become friendly with. One of the films strongest assets is Kentaro Nojima’s score that covers a wide range of cinematic styles including mixing your traditional Japanese instruments with western influenced sounds and instruments.
Elegant Slaughters was shot entirely on location in Gion the largest geisha district in Kyoto. The film makes full use of is scenery chochin (red lanterns), noren (curtains covering tea house entrances) and ochaya (tea houses). They add atmosphere to the film that no constructed set could ever replicate.The first segment of Kyoto Nocturnes Elegant Slaughter wraps up nicely resolving its main theme. Even as a stand alone separate of the main piece Kyoto Nocturnes it is a power piece in its own right. Director John Foster has a strong visual eye that is evident through his love for Japanese culture and the yakuza genre. I wait in anticipation to see what he will come with next.
“Elegant Slaughter is a yakuza film, but it’s so much more then that. I don’t really know how to classify it – and that’s what I love about it. What I’m also very proud of is that the story has enough madness and mayhem to fill a feature, but it’s only the first part of Kyoto Nocturnes. We still have four parts to finish, four more stories that are just as wild and inventive as Part 1 is. Elegant Slaughter is just the beginning.” – John Foster
For additional information about this project or anyone who is interested in Kyoto Nocturnes Part 1: Elegant Slaughter visit the official web page here.