Written by: John White on January 12th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1997
Director: Rokuro Mochizuki
Cast: Shohei Hino, Shunsuke Matsuoka, Yukio Yamanouchi, Shingo Tsurumi, Amiko Kanya
DVD Released: January 31st, 2006
Approximate Running Time: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD Release: Artsmagic
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Jiro is a small time conman who makes the mistake of crossing big time Yakuza, Kamewada, by stealing his cut by convincing stooge, Jay, to run off with his money. Kaemwada second guesses the both of them but spares Jiro and Jay’s life if they work pulling cons for him. In the meantime Jiro has fallen for Kumiko, the abused stepdaughter of a victim of one of his cons. Together Jiro, Jay and Kumiko carry out cons for Kamewada until Jiro chooses to cross him once more.
Mobster Confessions is a lighter, more comical film than others in Mochizuki’s canon. It revels in not taking the Yakuza genre too seriously and plays with cliché and viewer expectations. It is very knowing – Jiro test his friends by asking who they prefer Jujiro Ishihara or Akira Kobayashi, 2 popular genre actors. It does mix with this comedy some dark elements of tragedy, betrayal and even torture. The film itself is derived from both a Manga comic and a novel. The film frames Jiro’s reflections on his life as a mobster beginning with him getting a good kicking and finishing with him enjoying a good hearty meal as an ordinary person.
Like Another Lonely Hitman and Onibi, Mobster confessions is most unexpected. Unlike other directors of gangster films, Mochizuki’s choices are innovative, his focus is contemplative and his characters are unique. Jiro is a conman with ideas above his station who seemingly values the loyalty of Jay and the love of Kumiko but drops them at a moment’s notice. He persuades the abused Kumiko to sleep with lots of his stooges whilst all the while plotting revenge against the stepfather who abused her. The contradictions in this are worked out for the most part excellently and Jiro seems to survive the world of Yakuzas to chow down at the end of the picture. The central romance of Jiro and Kumiko is incredibly well portrayed with both characters desperate to be loved and neither sure whether they really are.
Moments in Mobster Confessions stand out. Kumiko’s death is incredibly well orchestrated beginning as it does with a tight close-up which suggests domestic bliss only to pull back and show her being tortured. Similarly the initial meeting between Kumiko and Jiro is a brilliant example of something approaching love at first sight between two equal misfits. The sex scenes are also fresh, intelligent and, well, sexy! The score of the film is excellent at both these points and the importance of popular music as a reference point is underlined for the main characters throughout but particularly effective in the prison van sequence in which Mochizuki cameos.
Mobster Confessions is intelligently made with wit, no little flare and some unexpected glories.
Artsmagic continue their excellent track record with their US releases with an excellent disc here. The film is presented anamorphically with a very good transfer which is sharp and well balanced in terms of colour. The sound is provided in original stereo or 5.1, it is exceptionally well defined and punchy with only occasional distortion with crescendos of the soundtrack.
The disc comes with an interview with Mochizuki where he talks a lot about the film in respect to working with a young crew and his future projects. He is particularly enervated when discussing war and a future project on wartime is promised. The disc also has biographies and a commentary from Tom Mes about the film.
The disc is an excellent package and whilst the feature is not quite as good as previous Mochizuki releases the film is a must buy from anyone interested in newer Japanese cinema.
For more information about Mobster Confessions visit Artsmagic here.