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Juzo Itami's daring satire of the Japanese mob so outraged the "Yakuza" that real-life thugs viciously attacked the director. Blending realism and raucous farce, Minbo pits buffoonish criminals against a fearless lawyer, played by Nobuko Miyamoto. Hired to protect a hotel against blackmailing mobsters, the courageous attorney rallies employees to fight back.
Who says filmmaking isn't dangerous? Writer-director Juzo Itami (Tampopo) found out the hard way. After the premiere of his 1992 film, Minbo, he was attacked and seriously injured by a knife-wielding yakuza (Japanese mobster).
Given the subject matter of Minbo, it's not surprising. This overly long film (123 minutes) paints an unflattering picture of the intimidation techniques of the Japanese mafia. They bully their way along a thin line that divides civil from criminal offense so they cannot be easily arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. One can only assume that Itami must have gotten pretty close to the truth or he wouldn't have been attacked.
Nobuko Miyamato (Itami's wife) plays minbo specialist Mahiru Inoue, a woman with a very personal reason for hating the yakuza. Tough on the outside but compassionate on the inside, she is employed to help the staff of the Hotel Europa rid themselves of a yakuza infestation so that they can host more respectable guests. It's an uphill battle for the large cast, and the story suffers along the way from Itami's characteristic meandering.
Instead of trying to cover the shortest distance between two points, Itami bounces after too many characters and weakens the impact of the story as a whole. Nobuko Miyamoto's performance is really terrific and she makes up for a lot, but it's too bad there's not more of her and a lot less of Yakuza 101. --Luanne Brown
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In addition to its political bent and rather movie-like repercussions, however, "Minbo" remains an excellent film, showcasing Itami's biting wit and stinging satire of modern Japanese society. The same sharp eye he brought to Japanese family life in "The Funeral" is used to mercilessly let the air out of the yakuza's puffed shirts and throw back the curtain of the Great and Powerful Oz, revealing the scared little men for all to see.
Itami's skillful blend of comedy and drama is on strong display, and characters wax and wane between pathetic, noble, scared and ridiculous. His wife, Nobuko Miyamato is at her most beautiful and powerful in this film. Playing a lawyer who will not bow to the yakuza tactics, she is a lady full in command, it is hard to believe that this is the same scared woman behind the counter in "Tampopo."
Anyone who lives in Japan is familiar with the black trucks and their annoying, relentless loudspeakers, can appreciate the frustration felt by the characters in "Minbo." I for one am glad Itami made this film.
it shows the layers of gangsters and their tricks - much better than the typical one dimensional cardboard cutouts you see in Black Rain or Yakuza or others. it gives you a taste for their methods and interaction. then there is the interaction of the innocent good Japanese and how they are intimidated and interact. its interesting to see how it all unfolds, and how characters is built.
the movie is clever interesting, has emotional highs and lows, and educational. i just wish they would make a DVD version. I also highly recommend the Tax Woman movie - in particular the first one but not the second. I also didn't think that much of the Funeral movie. But Minbo and the Tax Woman are great!