Sunday, 15 January 2017

Black Society Trilogy (1995 - 1999)

Three grim and unrelenting crime thrillers that make up what is known as director Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy get a Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films.
The films don’t have any continuation of plot or characters, by the way. The reason they get grouped together is because they were his first films for a major studio and the first to be made specifically for cinema release (his previous movies had been in the direct-to-video world of Japanese ‘V’ cinema).

The movies do boast a consistent set of themes, though, ones that recur throughout the director’s work, so if you want to get a real feel for what Takashi Miike is all about, this is the place to start.
Arrow gives you the three films spread over two discs. Disc one kicks off with SHINJUKU TRIAD SOCIETY (1995), in which a mixed-race cop (Japanese father and Chinese mother) becomes involved in illegal child organ trafficking. Both the triad and the yakuza are involved, with the matter more complicated because the cop’s brother is the lawyer for the triad group. 

RAINY DOG (1997) flips things around by having its main character a Yakuza member who gets fired and finds a new occupation working as a hired assassin in Taiwan. Once again things get complicated when family issues get mixed up with business.
LEY LINES (1999) is probably the best and most accomplished of the three. Once again we have the mixed race theme as we follow three Japanese lads of Chinese descent who leave their semi-rural surroundings to seek their fortune in Tokyo, only to end up in trouble with a local crime syndicate.

Violence and urban squalor in LEY LINES
Each of these films offer little comfort, instead suggesting that society is corrupt and that everyone is corruptible. Scenes of sudden and over-the-top violence alternate with in-your-face sexual unpleasantness. The cold grainy photography makes these movies look as if they were shot twenty years earlier than they actually were, and even the most hardened of film fans might find it a struggle to watch all three through in one go. 
           Arrow’s new set offers new audio commentaries on all three films, as well as trailers, optional subtitles, and new interviews with director Takashi Miike and Show Aikawa who stars in RAINY DOG and LEY LINES. If, like me, you’re mainly familiar with Takashi Miike’s work from AUDITION and *that* episode of MASTERS OF HORROR, the Black Society Trilogy offers you a crash course in what’s going on inside his head. 

Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy is out from Arrow on Blu-ray on Monday 16th January 2017

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