Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981)
Directed by Shinji Sômai
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Haruki Kadokawa’s first foray into film production with Kon Ichikawa’s The Inugami Family (1976). The controversial polymath that some consider the Howard Hughes of Japan (maybe Donald Trump is a closer comparison…), Kadokawa peaked in the 70s and 80s, raising many eyebrows with his aggressive, yet successful marketing strategies tied to his epic blockbusters.
Sailor Suit and Machine Gun was a cash cow and star vehicle that paired art house director (sadly forgotten in the West) Shinji Sômai with pop singer and actress Hiroko Yakushimaru. Based on the book by the prolific Jirô Akagawa, Sailor Suit is about a high school girl inheriting a dying gang consisting of four remaining yakuza. With Sômai’s long takes, tracking shots and gift for staging in depth, Sailor Suit is a film in which a talented director shoots fluff, but boy is it well-made fluff. Tanner Tafelski (November 8, 7pm at Japan Society’s Kadokawa retrospective)