Remembering Yasuharu Hasebe (1932-2009)

btk01Akira Kobayashi in Yasuharu Hasebe’s Black Tight Killers (1966)

While I was trying to compile a post for the Japanese Cinema Blogathon currently happening at Wildgrounds I read the sad news that one of my favorite Japanese directors, Yasuharu Hasebe, has died after he contracted pneumonia on June 14th. Hasebe was 77 years old, but he was still an active director and his last project was the police drama The Case Files of Mamoru Yonezawa (Kanshiki: Yonezawa Mamoru no Jikenbo; 2009).

After learning about Yasuharu Hasebe death I immediately decided to put aside my previous plans to write about one of my favorite Japanese actors (Akira Kobayashi) and focus on writing a bit about Hasebe’s work instead. In a sad coincidence, Akira Kobayashi also appeared in some of Hasebe’s best films.

Only a handful of the movies that Yasuharu Hasebe made are currently available on DVD in the US but they showcase the work of an incredibly talented director who injected his action-packed dramas and violent pink films with pertinent social messages and bucket loads of style. Although he’s not as revered as many of his contemporaries, Yasuharu Hasebe was able to masterfully navigate through the Japanese studio system while carving out his own distinct creative path. The director wrote or co-wrote many of his best films, which often touched on similar themes including female oppression and exploitation, as well as race relations and the American occupation of Japan. Yasuharu Hasebe’s films are frequently sited for their orchestrated action and extreme violence but I think that many of them have maintained their power because of the director’s socially conscious scripts and keen sense of mise-en-scène.

Yasuharu Hasebe seemed to enjoy placing his camera in unexpected places and shooting his films in an intimate manner that is often surprisingly innovative. Although I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else, I firmly believe that the recurring visual motifs and framing techniques seen throughout many of Hasebe films mark his work with an individual flair that is undeniably his own. I wouldn’t hesitate to call Yasuharu Hasebe an “auteur” but I know that I’m in the minority. It’s important to point out (as I’ve often done before) that western film criticism of Japanese cinema is still in its infancy and I suspect that Yasuharu Hasebe’s films will receive much more critical attention and acclaim in the future as more critics and film scholars are exposed to his work.

Here’s a brief rundown of some of my favorite Yasuharu Hasebe films and television productions that are currently available on DVD in the US . . .

Continue reading “Remembering Yasuharu Hasebe (1932-2009)”

Barbie has gone to The Birds

This might be old news to some, but it’s new news to me. I just discovered Mattel released a Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels in The Birds (1963) Barbie doll in October complete with attacking birds and a mini reproduction of her fabulous green dress suit. The Birds terrified me when I first saw it as a child and I don’t suspect that a lot … Continue reading Barbie has gone to The Birds

DVD of the Week: Delinquent Girl Boss – Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)

One of my favorite films from Panik House’s 2005 Pinky Violence DVD Collection was Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless To Confess (Zubekô banchô: zange no neuchi mo nai, 1971), which was directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi for Toei and starred the strikingly cute Japanese actress and occasional pop idol Reiko Oshida. Not only was Delinquent Girl Boss: Worthless To Confess one of the best looking films in … Continue reading DVD of the Week: Delinquent Girl Boss – Blossoming Night Dreams (1970)

Rica is Coming – Pinky Violence is Here!

Rica (Rika Aoki) 1972 In recent years US DVD companies like Media Blasters, Panik House and Discotek Media have introduced American audiences to the amazing and controversial world of Japanese “Pinky Violence” (or “pink violence”) cinema. Before these companies started subtitling films and making them easily available to American audiences on DVD, Japanese cinema obsessives like myself had to make due with bad VHS bootlegs … Continue reading Rica is Coming – Pinky Violence is Here!