Sunday, 15 October 2017

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Ken Takakura in The Yakuza

Ken Takakura did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza.

Ken Takakura enters the Yakuza as the man to help the American Harry (Robert Mitchum) navigate the Japanese underworld in order to rescue Harry's businessman friend's daughter. We see the film through Harry's eyes, however with an edit of the film it would be easy enough to establish Tanaka as the main character though in a way this would be a different film. In the story we see Harry coming to terms with his past, while trying to deal with the future. Mitchum makes Harry a very open hero however Takakura's Tanaka is far more constrained. We initially meet him teaching at a dojo and Takakura's performance is very exact in his realization of the expression of Tanaka as a man. On the surface when speaking about the job he'll help Harry do, since he owes him for saving his "sister" long ago, Takakura portrays sincerity in his pledge to help. He portrays a man seemingly ready to help, however underneath this Takakura carries a greater complexity. From his first glance to Harry Takakura evokes in his eyes pain of the past in regards to the man, and carries this certain underlying tension in his interactions with the man.

Takakura's performance works particularly well as a companion work to Mitchum's and a contrast to it. On the one side of it Takakura is very effective, as Mitchum is, in the action scenes. He brings the right type of "cool" so to speak in these scenes though Tanaka takes on foes with the sword while Harry uses a gun. As with Mitchum the action scenes are never something taken lightly within Takakura's performance, although he technically goes even further with this partially due to the overtly physical nature of the action he participates in. Takakura brings a real weight to every moment by portraying every ounce of the battles in his own performance. This is in part due to realizing the physical exasperation of the fight, particularly in the final duel, but he also captures the emotional intensity involved. The fight becomes very personal for Tanaka, partially due to honor partially due to loss, and this is never lost in Takakura's performance. In every moment of the fight what motivates the man is keenly felt and makes every action scene all the more compelling because of this.

Again the contrast against Mitchum though is what is truly remarkably in this as Harry is the man we know pretty quickly, but Tanaka is the mystery of the film, the mystery who slowly unravels in order for us to understand. Takakura's performance is always in an exact tandem with this unraveling and through this makes the most compelling aspect of the film. After the initial rescue, which only leads to greater problems for Ken, which Harry tries to help him with. There's a great scene for Takakura where Harry tries to counsel him on what to do with his severe problem involving honor and the Yakuza where Ken's life is on the line. Takakura is amazing in the scene because every line of delivery has an abruptness, even a coldness of a man who doesn't care much about what Harry is saying, and just will do what he needs to do for himself. In every words about Harry, particularly when Harry speaks about his "sister's" concern for him, there is such a palatable anguish within Takakura's eyes. Takakura is deeply affecting as a reveals the real man suffering beneath essentially the requirements of honor, alluding to what the man is really going through even before we learn what that is.

Takakura is terrific in keeping in this dual nature of the man as he does portray an absolute conviction within the honor, yet there is always the sense of the sacrifice this entails. Takakura keeps in mind this idea throughout his performance though in every moment large or small, in even a slight reaction such as watching Harry being embraced by his "sister", there is those subtle hints to the far more vulnerable man who is burdened by his giri, his obligation, due to when Harry's past actions saved his "sister's" life. Eventually we learn the truth of the man which is that Harry never had saved his sister but actually his wife, and his honor left him to support Harry even as the two had an romantic affair. This revelation is bluntly revealed in a heartbreaking moment as grieves over the death, due to a gunfight, of his thought to be niece but was in fact his daughter. Takakura reveals the severity of the loss in revealing the out pour of almost the full anguish of the man's life. That is not only an incredibly powerful moment in the scene itself, but looking at the revelation naturally grants an understanding to the whole of Takakura's performance.

With this mystery revealed Takakura's performance is interesting in that it is the same yet with the perspective of knowing the truth you see every moment of the man in a different and very poignant light. In that way we are much like Harry in the film who by the end comes to fully understand the sacrifices of Tanaka himself. This leads to the two men coming together to realize a friendship between the two. It's a great scene for both actors though especially so for Takakura. Takakura in the moment loses that tension between the two sides of the man as Harry offers his apology. Takakura opens up most honestly emotionally in the moment, no longer is directed around any pain, no longer with the distance to the man who both righted and inadvertently wrong him. There is such an earned tenderness and respect in his delivery of "No man has a greater friend" which is both heartwarming and devastating as we see that two men finally fully knowing one another. This is a great performance by Ken Takakura as he provides the hidden heart of the film through his slow dissection of this initial enigma of a man that grants a real substance to the film that elevates the potentially pulpy story.

31 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Michael McCarthy: Your Ratings and Thoughts on Richard Harris in Juggernaut, Roberts Blossom in The Great Gatsby and Christopher Lee in The Man With The Golden Gun.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of a shame that Takakura was never in a Kurosawa movie.

Charles H said...

Love his performance here. Even better than Mitchum, and really got to be top of your game to be better than Mitchum.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the ending of The Fly. Such a sad ending.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: I do find it strange that Kramer isn't a part of The Chinese Restaurant. Feel like he could've fit in the episode.

Anyway, your thoughts on Jessica Chastain as an actress?

Matt Mustin said...

Larry David said the reason Kramer wasn't in The Chinese Restaurant is because at that point in the writing, part of Kramer's character was that he was never going to leave his apartment and if it had been a later episode he would've been in it. But I agree it feels strange.

RatedRStar said...

Could someone send me a link to the terrible dance from Salome? I could do with a giggle lol.

94dfk1 said...

Matt: Ah, I see. Thanks for the info!

Calvin Law said...

Yeah Takakura is amazing here. Also terrific in Black Rain nearly two decades later.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts on George Griffith, Pierce Gagnon, John Pirruccello, and Jake Wardle in The Return?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone watched or is watching Mindhunter? Great tv show, a mix of Zodiac with True Dective, highlight for me are the actors that make the serial killers.

Anonymous said...

I also watched Dragged Through Concrete. Great movie and Vince Vaughn surprisingly great. Maybe the role of his life. And Don Johnson steals the show. S. Craig Zahler is very promising.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: You mean Brawl in Cell Block 99.

Alex Marqués said...

Has anyone seen The Meyerowitz Stories? Everyone says it's Sandler's best work since PDL.

Louis Morgan said...

I have.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the film and cast.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And are there any other films from this year that you haven't mentioned seeing in the past two or three months.

Anonymous said...

Luke: Exactly. I'm sorry.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Well, his next film is Dragged Across Concrete so don't be hard on yourself with the title confusion.

Anonymous said...

Louis , thoughts and ratings for the Men In Black movies?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Kind of my go to tragic love story for a film actually, and I'd agree to what RatedRStar mentioned in my review of Goldblum's performance, which I'd take this any day over say Titanic in this regard. The reason being as much as the film has its effects, and high concept, the emotion is always made very real by the two central performances. Goldblum and Davis earn the love story, and make the most important facet leading to sort of the classic Frankenstein idea where there is a real tragedy in the monster. The loss is realized beautifully even within the frame of shooting a bug monster.

94dk1:

It's important to note about Chastain in that she really hasn't been around in the film sphere for all that long still, despite her prolific breakout, and I wouldn't say she has of yet met what she did in that debut. I think what we are seeing more than anything Chastain potentially going in two directions as her best performances I find strive closer to a naturalism in her performances, and find she less capable when doing sort of overt "ACTING" that is even within a single performance like Zero Dark Thirty. The last performance of hers that I saw was Miss Sloane which was sort of an incarnate of those worst tendencies, so it'll be interesting to see where she goes as an actress, which could be to more naturalistic performances again or perhaps she becomes better at the more mannered turns. I'm certainly interested in Molly's Game as it seems like it is kind of a second take with a Miss Sloane style role, with the real deal rather than the ripoff for material, hopefully this one will turn out better.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Griffith - (Something I love is how many different types of creeps we get throughout the series, and I thought Griffith's performance stood out well among the crowd. He has a bit of a personal style in the role that makes himself stand as he's just incredibly unique among so many unique performances, something Lynch is always great at finding. I liked the way Griffith played his part with a bit of the confidence of the only guy who thinks he has a bead on what makes doppelcooper tick, and there is this slimy smugness he brings in these interactions portraying no fear in their interactions. That is until the supernatural nature of doppelcooper appears, and Griffith's pretty terrific in bringing just the overt fear and the loss of all that confidence first in the bloody revival scene, then later on in a very bad game of arm wrestling.)

Gagnon - (Wonderful work as he, along with MacLachlan, made the relationship Sonny-Jim and Dougie just so heartwarming. I liked how much warmth Gagnon brought in every interactions showing a kid who just really loves his dad. This for awhile plays itself out in a mostly amusing way, but it's great as it suddenly becomes quite tragic. Gagnon is very moving as he brings such a genuine heartbreak when he starts to realize Dougie might not be Dougie. Thankfully we were granted the only heartwarming moment in the finale with Dougie returning "home".)

Pirruccello - (Everything was perfect about this character to me right down to the name "Chad" and Pirruccello's performance. What I like about Pirruccello's work is really how simplistic he is in portraying how much of a jerk loser Chad is in every respect. That being his completely despicable and dismissive attitude as a cop, or even just as a co-worker, such as when he says he's going to tell on Hawk for messing with the bathroom door like a kid in school. He's just horrible in the best of ways the worst of it. This is even in the more lighthearted moments of eating in the conference room "but you guys have donuts" which again is so enjoyable by how juvenile Pirruccello makes it, or when he goes full evil where he fails so terribly at being menacing in any way.)

Wardle - (Made a great impression with very limited screentime, but playing a very pivotal part. His performance comes down to his monologue really which I thought he found he delivered with a real poignancy making the weirdness of meeting the firemen somehow illuminating rather than just strange. Wardle brings the right pride, along with the confusion, in describing finding his purpose in the world through a rather strange glove. I also rather liked his chemistry with Marshall as I found they had a believable quiet warmth between the two that while wasn't a major aspect of the series, it was a nice part of it.)

Louis Morgan said...


Luke:

I suppose for films about quirky affluent types I prefer the more stylized approach of Wes Anderson, or even Woody Allen for that matter, than Noah Baumbach's solo perspective. I would say more than anything with this film it's moments of overt comedy, and quirkiness I found the least effective almost sending the film off the rails. He goes for the same type of humorous moments like Anderson, fitting than he was a co-writer a couple of times with him, however since he directs with a straight reality they don't work as well, to me anyways. In fact I find they fail rather miserably, however there is more to the film in its depiction of the self-reflecting family which is closer to Allen. In this aspect I didn't love it by any margin, sometimes it overplays its hands with a few of its setups, but there are effective moments and scenes in that regard.

I'll save Hoffman for the moment as there is an outside chance he could be nominated.

Sandler - 3.5(I would agree that this is probably his best work since Punch Drunk Love, although I'm not sure that is saying too much. This is once again Sandler being put in a role that uses his type though I wouldn't say it does it as effectively as PTA did it. When he gets loud here it almost feels like Sandler going on Sandler autopilot whereas in Punch Drunk Love those moments felt more a natural part to the character. The idea of this character getting angry made enough sense however Sandler would jump too quickly to his comedic yell setting. Having said that I did find he was pretty good in his quieter scenes particularly those he shares with Ben Stiller. Sandler does a good job of portraying sort of the more hidden frustrations with father, but also attempt at an appreciation. He portrays the complexity of this except when he yells, which again don't feel the outburst of a hidden anger they just feel like Sandler falling on an "old favorite".)

Stiller - 4(The best part of the film though his role is awfully similair to his Chad in The Royal Tenenbaums, however this does not feel like Stiller is just repeating that performance by any margin. Stiller instead is effective in portraying this more exact hostility in his interactions his father, making his frustrations more overt than Sandler's and in contrast the two do well in creating sense of the different histories between the sons and their fathers. Their scenes together are the highlights of the film since in those moment they open up in what feels like a very honest way, and the way they both are detached yet find a connection feels very natural through the chemistry the two share.)

Marvel - 2.5(Could have been a great aspect of the film, but to me she's just okay. She just barely isn't a full blown caricature, but more or less is one. There is occasionally a moment where she seems more than just a series of quirks, but too often that is what defines her performance.)

Hirsch - 2.5(Some Hirsch Hirsching it up, he thankfully doesn't go too far in this regard but this is just an okay example of such from him.)

Thompson - 1.5(Yeah this was not good. She very much goes for every overt Jewish mannerism in her performance and she always comes across as a somewhat ridiculous caricature. She's not really meant to be either, and frankly this is probably the least I've ever liked Thompson.)

Adam Driver and Sigourney Weaver are both okay but barely in the film.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Thanks. I have noticed that she does "ACT" quite a bit so maybe Miss Sloane will use that side of hers for good indeed.

94dfk1 said...

*Mollys Game

Calvin Law said...

Louis: glad we agree on 'em. Could I also have your extended thoughts on Miguel Ferrer this season? Because the more I think about it the more I love how they handled Albert.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I didn't care for Chastain's blunt force trauma of a performance in Miss Sloane either, but I at least admire her commitment to selling such an absurdly written role. In terms of her "overt" performances, A Most Violent Yer is definitely the best of them. There she plays a character who's more bark than bite, constantly playacting as a mafia princess when really she's just a financial crook. Her cowering behind Albert Brooks at the end of the film is a great little moment that illustrates how Anna is all talk.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this Punisher short film:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWpK0wsnitc

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your top ten David Warner acting moments.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Chuck
The Discovery
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
Maudie
The Hero

Calvin:

Ferrer - (There isn't anything that isn't amazing about his performance, and although it won't happen he should get that supporting actor Emmy Nomination (while if you ask me Lynch should be covered multiple times over for his directing). Ferrer on the one end brings a bit more sheer troll Albert that is always a hoot, and I love that he almost can't seem to help himself from ribbing locals. The best of that sort of Albert though being his flawless delivery after Matthew Lillard's scene that made that scene. There is even the secondary comedic work with Lynch which is of different style where he is such a fantastic mostly deadpan sometimes rather frustrated straight man for Lynch. The best of being "CAR SICK", and his priceless reaction to "What kind of wine is it", "11:30". Even past that though he also acts as the direct mentor in his scenes with Chrysta Bell as Tammy, and I like the reserved warmth he brings as he discusses the blue rose case where he quizzes her to build her back up. Again one past that though is his portraying his own subtle emotional work as related to Cooper and doppelcooper particularly when describing the death of the Colombian agent. Ferrer never wasted a scene, and managed to even top his work from the original.)

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I agree there's no lack of trying when it comes to Chastain's performance, and I'd agree that's her best in that vein.

Anonymous:

Well I have seen this before and it seemed almost to me like Thomas Jane, see I could've been better with the right material, and perhaps that's true. I will admit it makes little sense as pure Punisher short since it seems like he's compelled by a singular event not involved with his personal life. This alteration though is well done, and it delivers the vicious edge quite frankly needed for the material with Jane going further with the role in these ten minutes than he frankly did in the feature length film.