I like the description of Kurahara Koreyoshi’s “Intimidation” (Aru kyôhaku, 1960) as “a pocket noir.” It runs 65 minutes, so is pocket-sized. It involves corruption, is set in a city (albeit a provincial one, not Tokyo), and mostly shot at night, so qualifies by my key criteria as a “noir.” It has a twist that I felt coming and one too many at the very end.
The de facto bank manager (second in command in theory) Takita (Kaneko Nobuo) is the son-in-law of the corporation’s head man, and is being transferred to Tokyo. Takita’s servile underling (once peer when they were schoolmates, more recently Takita has taken his girlfriend from him and is also cuckolding him) Nakaike (Nishimura Akira most recognizable from Kurosawa’s own urban corruption modern-dress movie “The Bad Sleep Well”) has the bad luck to be on duty the night Takita comes to rob the bank—to payoff a local mobster who paid off illegal loans Takita made. It was shot with considerable flair by Yamazaki Yoshihiro for whom IMDB lists no other credits.
The movie that gave theCriterion Kurahara 1960s set its name, “The Warped Ones” (Kyonetsu no kisetsu , 1960) only has a running time ten minutes more than “Intimidation” but feels much longer with action that seems random rather than the tightly wound plot of “Intimidation.” The quite nasty protagonist Akira (Kawachi Tamio, who became a Suzuki core repertoire player) is a pickpocket and car thief, who sees the man (Nagato Hiroyuki) whose testimony sent him to prison. He knocks the man down and abducts the man’s girlfriend, Fumiko (Matsumoto Noriko), an abstract painter. Rape is not shown, but has to be inferred from her subsequent pregnancy.
Fumiko tracks Akira down at a jazz club at which he hangs out and demands that he marry her. After he refuses, she gets him to have his prostitute friend Yuki (Chishiro Yuko) do to her fiancé what Akira did to her, so that his shame will equal hers. I’m not sure if Yuki rapes him on a crowded train, and definitely not with a strap-on, but she does throw her body at his… and (surprise!) he does not feel as shamed and degraded as Fumiko feels. (Actually, the gallery-goers at Fumiko’s show’s opening humiliate Akira, but that does not seem enough for her feelings of violation.)
The goings-on are repellant, often shot from above (a Kurahara trademark). Akira is more sinister a juvenile delinquent than Marlon Brando’s character in “The Wild One” or James Dean’s in “Rebel Without a Cause,” for sure.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray