Monday, October 10, 2011
A Colt Is My Passport Review
A 1967 film from the Japanese Nikkatsu studio, A Colt is my passport is a brilliant piece of genre blending cinema. Directed by Takashi Nomura and starring Jo Shishido (perhaps best known in the west for Seijun Suzuki's amazing Branded to kill) the film is shot through with European influences but remains a truly Japanese creation.
Boiled down to it's essence, Jo Shishido is a stoic and slightly maverick hitman who along with his young partner (Jerry Fujio) takes on the job of killing a mob boss. After the hit everything becomes complicated as shifting allegiances within the underworld contrive to make their escape increasingly difficult.
That's the story in a nutshell, more characters are introduced but like most good genre movies it's kept tight and pretty simple. What elevates A Colt is my passport to excellence is the craft of the filmmaking and those influences I mentioned. Despite colour having been available in Japan for years when the film was shot, Nomura went with high contrast monochrome and this was a perfect choice for this film, it looks fantastic. The 2.35:1 framing of the movie gives the action a much grander feel than the obviously low budget would suggest possible, with inventive shot composition and excellent use of unusual angles all adding to the aesthetic. Given how much the Euro western "borrowed" from the Japanese Chanbara genre, it's pleasing to see the favour returned here. The film has a European vibe to it, with the ending feeling particularly Leonesque. The score for the film is basically a spaghetti western one, with a few jazzy elements thrown in here and there. The European influence doesn't just end with westerns, Jean Pierre Melville's wonderful gangster films seem to have also had an influence in A Colt is my passport. While Melville's main influences were the Hollywood gangster movies he loved so much, his film's were also hugely influenced by the Samurai code. It's great to see the Japanese film makers reflecting back their own cinematic conventions with a European perspective.
For all it's myriad of influences, A Colt is my passport remains a thoroughly Japanese film. Utilising excellent locations and a great cast led by the chipmunk faced Shishido, with excellent work from Chitose Kobayashi in particular. Nomura's film is a great example of the pulp genre. It's great fun from start to finish and has a fantastic opening and a truly superb ending, one so good it made me want to watch the film again immediately.