One of my favorite Japanese directors is the talented Kinji Fukasaku. When I read about the Close-Up Blog-a-thon being held by Matt Zoller Seitz at The House Next Door today, many scenes from his movies started rushing through my head. Kinji Fukasaku often used close-ups in his films to convey mood and action, so I thought I’d share a fascinating moment from Fukasaku’s terrific crime film Blackmail Is My Life (aka Kyokatsu Koso Waga Jinsei, 1968).
In the following moments represented by the still shots below, a young thug visits an unusual adult club with his lover and pretends to be someone he is not. He is fully aware that any actions he takes while he is at the club will be filmed by some criminals hiding behind a one-way mirror. The criminals think the man is unaware of their cameras and they plan to blackmail him with the film they’re shooting. At first the man is a bit nervous about having a camera film his every move, but he soon starts to enjoy the idea of being watched while it’s happening.
Fukasaku films the entire thing using close-ups that zoom in closer and closer as the scene unfolds, and it adds an uncomfortable intimacy to the action taking place on screen. These moments in the film manage to be erotic, sleazy and even a bit humorous all at once, while showing very little bare skin. It also leaves the audience in the somewhat uncomfortable position of being voyeurs who are unknowingly being observed.
Kinji Fukasaku was a brilliant director and Blackmail is My Life is the work of a man who was fully aware of the power of his camera. Many of his films are filled with creative uses of the “close-up” and this is just one interesting example.