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Yakuza!

Yakuza!

We have a killer selection of Japanese gangster films—or yakuza pictures—in the Criterion Collection, all from the genre’s heyday in the fifties and sixties. Tales of the criminal underworld marked as much by themes of honor and loyalty as by images of shocking, manic violence, they explore the codes and rituals of a society simmering right underneath “civilized” culture. Directors like Takumi Furukawa, Takashi Nomura, and especially Seijun Suzuki depict this bloody world of heists, double crosses, and rivalries with stylish excess, imitating their subjects’ freewheeling daredevilishness—Nomura’s A Colt Is My Passport and Suzuki’s Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter stand as some of the most visually inventive Japanese films of all time. And as proven by recent films from Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike, the genre doesn’t seem to be going out of fashion.