Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1963: Tsutomu Yamazaki in High and Low

Tsutomu Yamazaki did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ginjirô Takeuchi in High and Low.

I just gave High and Low my leading win for 1963 for Toshiro Mifune's great lead performance, but the film also has a terrific ensemble. The group of policemen distinguish themselves particularly well and each of their performances brings something to the film even though they very easily could have all faded together given the limited nature of their roles. The supporting player that I am focusing on though is not even seen until an hour into the film although he is heard. Tsutomu Yamazaki portrays the kidnapper who tries to extort 30 million yen from Mifune's King Gondo, and in the first hour we only hear his voice as he makes his threats as well as his demands.

Although it may seem slight Yamazaki does handle his voice work well setting up the right tone for who this kidnapper is even though we can't see him. He delivers the threats with a certain sly attitude that suggests that there is something personal to the man's attack on Gondo. Something interesting though is that after he is done making the phoned threats Yamazaki's performance goes from vocal only to a silent performance when we finally see him. Yamazaki's role is limited but he is still quite effective in these scenes. Above all he shows a very human villain his reactions as he looks over a paper about his work. Yamazaki expresses silently pride and sinister joy of his successful scheme, but as well an intense disappointment and hatred as he sees the public praising Gondo.

Yamazaki is extremely good in making Yamazaki three dimensional even though he is not saying a single thing. He gives the emotions of him in just these reactions the complexity they deserve. He makes apparent that there is a lot going on in this man and this kidnapping means something far deeper to him than a monetary gain. He is always very realistic in his portrayal and his Yamazaki always expresses what is going on in the man's mind in a compelling fashion. His silent performance though continues into a long and brilliant set of scenes that involves the cops trailing him as he goes about tying up the loose end of his two drug addict accomplishes. They trail him and we watch Takeuchi's moves as goes about preparing to cause an overdose in the two people.

Yamazaki is easily identified in every scene through a pair of dark black sunglasses and he makes for the perfect adversary in these scenes. As through his whole performance Yamazaki does suggests through subtle hints of perhaps some fear in the man, but most of it is overridden by his confidence. Yamazaki has a perfect cocky stride in these scenes as he goes from place to place suggesting perhaps that Takeuchi thinks this is just the end of his perfect plan. He very effective in showing the full extent of the smugness particularly in the scene where he by chance comes across Gondo and asks for a light. Yamazaki shows a distinct pleasure in the man as he seems to tease fate due to his perceived knowledge that he merely is completing the last step of his task.

Yamazaki is a very effective in being the villain in a very low key fashion in these scenes. He is quite chilling for example in the scene where he tests his drugs on an addict and kills her without a second thought. Yamazaki is cold and brutal in that scene by showing in Takeuchi's face that this is merely just a step in his plan. He is careful not to show pleasure in this very scene as why should Takeuchi get any in fact there may be the smallest pity suggested, but he perhaps is all the harsher in showing that Takeuchi commits this evil in such a base manner. This leads Takeuchi though to finally bring the drugs and finish the plan and it is brilliant scene for Yamazaki. He starts out with quiet happiness seeing that he has gotten to the end of his plan, then that shifts to a more serious but casual showing knowing he will need to get down to business with his accomplishments who he clearly has no respect for, but then it finishes as he finds himself in the police trap. Yamazaki is amazing as his shifts to a full on disbelief and fear knowing that all his planning has meant nothing.

As much as I love that scene it seems like nothing compared to his final scene where Takeuchi is soon going to be hanged and comes face to face with King Gondo. We have only had glimpses of the man before this point and Yamazaki has had to certainly take minimalistic approach, this is his first and only traditional sort of acting scene and Yamazaki does not waste it. He and Gondo meet in a small room alone separated by glass and as he first comes in Yamazaki plays him as the villain. Yamazaki gives him that smug face ready to stare down his enemy, waiting to see some hatred against him, but Gondo has no hatred in his face. Yamazaki portrays actually that it pains Takeuchi in seeing that Gondo does not hate him.

Takeuchi's motivation though is revealed to be that Gondo's house on the hill always seemed mocking him in his small shack below. Yamazaki is outstanding because he realizes this motivation honestly, as something that comes right from anger in his soul not anger for Gondo but an anger toward his lot in life. Yamazaki shows Takeuchi try to keep it all together as the cunning villain he wants to be but portrays that the fact that he is about to executed is always on his mind. Yamazaki actually manages to make this a heartbreaking moment as he realizes the fear in Takeuchi so powerfully, and creates a truly impressive dynamic though as he shows that Takeuchi still tries to stay the villain through his indignant tone he attempts to keep up up until the point when the fear overwhelms him completely. It is an incredible scene as Yamazaki makes us feel sorry for a villain who wanted to brought to justice throughout the rest of the film. It is no wonder that Kurosawa decided to scrap a single scene after this one because of the strength of Yamazaki's performance. The more I think about Yamazaki's work the better it gets. This is a great performance and despite the limitations put upon Yamazaki, he creates a complex character that ends up being so much even while having so little.

20 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Agreed entirely. Again, I'm SO glad to see another fan of this movie and it's merits.

RatedRStar said...

Im I the only one on this blog that thinks.. well.. he looks kinda cute =D lol (yes I get it im the only one who would kiss him lol)

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

To quote Seinfeld: "Not that there's anything wrong with that". ;)

RatedRStar said...

=D he is cute though lol, What you reckon Louis? lol.

Louis Morgan said...

To answer that I'd probably also have to quote Seinfeld.

RatedRStar said...

=D, also since I asked Koook160 this before,, what are your top 5 films Louis =D.

Louis Morgan said...

1. Back To The Future
2. Amadeus
3. The Quiet Man
4. Once Upon A Time in The West
5. A Christmas Story

RatedRStar said...

oh cool they are pretty epic, =D my favorites are much more odd and well strange I guess but lol.

Louis Morgan said...

Your top five should be your top five.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I may as well make mine public now that RatedRStar brought it up:

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
2. The Dark Knight
3. Fight Club
4. Ed Wood
5. The Godfather Part II

Michael Patison said...

What are your top 5, RatedRStat?

RatedRStar said...

alrite lol well what does everyone reckon do I have good taste.

1)Notorious
2)The Crying Game
3)La Belle Et La Bete
4)Billy Budd
5)Magnolia

RatedRStar said...

I think my list is very strange though, 5 very unusual choices, I mean, Most people don't rank Notorious as Hitchcock's best, most people have never heard of Billy Budd or La Belle, Magnolia is the only one that has a decent sort of cult following lol.

Michael Patison said...

My top 5, at least for the moment, because literally 4 minutes from right now something else could have jumped in or the order could have shifted, would be:

1. Cinema Paradiso
2. All About Eve
3. All the President's Men
4. Network
5. Almost Famous

The rest of my top 10 at the moment would be:
6. Howards End
7. Amadeus
8. The Departed
9. In Bruges
10. L.A. Confidential

RatedRStar said...

=D sweet taste Michael lol

Michael Patison said...

I need to give Notorious another try. I bought it recently and gave it a watch but wasn't really pulled in by it, but I think I need to reduce the distractions around me in order to get into it more. I'm guessing you love it because of Claude Rains. I expected to see at least one Hong Kong or Chinese film in there, but way to surprise me! Honestly the only one I've seen is Notorious though I recently bought Magnolia and will watch it next month when I get back home from summer school.

Michael Patison said...

I do think it's interesting how, for the most part, none of us mentioned a film usually listed as one of the best. Nobody listed Citizen Kane, which I think is an overrated, albeit fantastic, movie, full of brilliantly inventive storytelling elements and excellent visual techniques. Nobody listed Gone with the Wind or The Godfather. (Part II is another story thanks to Koook, I'm not part of that boat, that being the one that likes the 2nd more than the 1st, as it actually took me two viewings to come to like both of the film's storylines.)

RatedRStar said...

yes its mainly cause of Claude Rains =D, whenever I see it I always get quite upset, probably because of the final scene or that it was his final Oscar nomination and he never won 1 =(.

And lol there are lots of foreign language films I love hehe lol and strangely I have never seen Citizen Kane lol =D

the 5 that are my favorites are ones that are personal to me in my personal life you could say like ill show you below.


Billy Budd (I got bullied at school even though I was a shy do gooder and it makes me think of that)

La Belle Et La Bete (The Beast underneath us all can be more beautiful than whats on the outside)

Magnolia (ive been at the bedside of a loved one who passed away so)

The Crying Game (me coming out to loved ones and them reacting badly to it reminded me of Dil revealing himself to Fergus and him reacting badly to it)

Notorious ( Rains final scene was like his final time that he would be in a successful movie since his career died in the 50s before one brief comeback in Lawrence In Arabia and it just upset me lol)

Mark said...

Ah heck, might as well post my Top 5 as well.

1. The Shawshank Redemption
2. Pulp Fiction
3. Die Hard
4. The Usual Suspects
5. LOTR: The Return of the King

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Michael: Yeah, what can I say, Part II had all of the scenes in the series that I love the most. I mean, I love the first one quite a bit, but the second one is compiled of some of my all time favorite sequences put on to celluloid. Specifically the scene where young Vito stalks his "prey" on the rooftops ending in one of the greatest assassination scenes ever. Then they end with the dichotomy of Vito returning home after the parade and doting on newborn Michael - It's just so freaking brilliant. Plus, I have a more gooey, sentimental reason for loving it. It was my late grandfather's favorite film, and I watched half of it with him a few months before he passed away. It was the last time I remember him really smiling and enjoying himself, especially considering his wife passed away just two weeks before. But I digress.

Also, JOHN CAZALE. Man, I loved that performance before I even knew his name.