Jeans Blues: No Future (1974)
Director: Sadao Nakajima
Writers: Takeo Kaneko and Sadao Nakajima
Starring: Tsunehiko Watase, Meiko Kaji, and Ryôhei Uchida

The Plot: Hijiriko (Meiko Kaji) is hostess at a bar, Jiro (Tsunehiko Watase)nis a low-rent hood who is working with his buddies on their biggest score yet. In the same night, both of these outsiders run away from their jobs, but Jiro happens to take all of the prize money from this “big score” and now all of his old friends want him dead. So, with a laundry list of people searching for them, these two find a bond with one another and are soon enjoying their newfound riches. However, few great things are meant to last.

The Review
Meiko Kaji is such an intriguing character from Japanese cinema of the 1970s. She’s the standout actress for most Western movie fans and is often thought of as the face of the pinky violence genre, despite having a career that moves well outside of this field. Kaji had a deceptive range. The Female Convict Scorpion and Lady Snowblood movies gave her a name within the west, and both series show Kaji at her most reserved and stoic. These were characters that she played exceptionally well, but she was capable of much more. She could be the demure ideal Japanese wife, but she could also be a wisecracking and powerful woman. While the pinky violence genre produced numerous strong actresses, few had the versatility of Kaji, and few had careers that extended past the 1970s. Jeans Blues: No Future comes at the point in Kaji’s career where she had already proved herself to be a superstar. This came two years after the Female Convict Scorpion series had began, and was shot between the various sequels, and was also squeezed in between the Lady Snowblood series. While Jeans Blues: No Future once again shows Kaji on the wrong side of the law and standing up for women everywhere, but she also shows off some of her range and creates a very three dimensional character in the midst of a tonally chaotic movie.

Jeans Blues hits the audience right over the head immediately with its built-in “hip” factor. With an intro song that starts off melodic, but quickly becomes a raging funkadelic freakout, we watch Meiko Kaji act nonchalant at a cash register in the midst of a psychadelic party/orgy. She comes across as jaded and uninterested in all of the wild activities taking place around her. She’s a hipster, rebelling against the rebellious. The entire scene is almost reflective of Kaji’s actual attitude on the sexualization of the female-centered action genre at the time, so she fits into the character perfectly. This is an actress who defied the odds by rarely ever displaying any flesh onscreen, despite actresses like Reiko Ike and Miki Sugimoto stripping down to nothing within every role that they were handed. The movie shows immediacy in its attempts to grab our attention, and this leads to one of my favorite moments in any pinky violence film out there. We cut back and forth between the previously-mentioned psychadelic orgy and a scene of violent retribution where Tsunehiko Watase’s character defies his criminal brothers in an attempt to hold onto a great deal of money that they have stolen. The sequence is set to a raucus rock & roll soundtrack, features copious sex/violence, and is shown entirely in slow motion, which takes the movie into the realm of the hypnotically stylish. The clip below features the sequence and I highly recommend readers check it out.

The movie works as well as it does because of the two very likable leads. These are two quirky outsiders, and the audience can’t help but empathize with them when looking at the greedy and gritty world that they are a part of. While these two are no simple white-hat caricatures, they at first seem to have a decency to them that makes them seem out of place. There’s no doubt that their costumes, which look as if they come from the early 20th century, play a large role in this. These outsiders don’t fit in with the world around them, and when compared to that world them they at times almost seem naive or wholesome. The movie distances our leads as further outcasts during a training sequence where Jiro (Tsunehiko Watase) practices shooting the shotgun that they steal by using the Japanese flag, which is held in a picture frame, as a target. This of course includes a closeup of the flag with a blast right through the red center, as if the viewer couldn’t get the symbolism right from the start. The retro style could also come from the obvious influence of Bonnie and Clyde, but these two come across as being more intrinsically likable. Yet, despite how endearing these characters are, they do find themselves in some true Bonnie and Clyde-esque situations. As the movie presses forward, the moral lines eventually become more blurred as our lead protagonists must do whatever is necessary to survive.

It doesn’t take long for the movie to develop into a general road movie, almost similar to a Smokey and the Bandit style adventure. We have the star-crossed lovers who are traveling down the road, and then we have the dangerous, yet possibly inept, villains who are concerned solely with catching them. There are even some humorous bits that pop up, just like the previously mentioned American subgenre, even though this is a film that delves far heavier into the world of legitimate drama. There’s a bit in the movie where Jiro, being the dummy that he is, buys a car that is going to be equally as wanted as the stolen vehicle that he left behind. Unknown to him, there is also a tire on the verge of a blowout with this vehicle, which leads to a few shenanigans that show off Watase’s charm and ability to handle comedy. Indeed, of the two, Watase is certainly the more outgoing of our leads. Kaji comes across as bitter and isolated, something that she has done well in the past, but Watase’s character continually tries to break her free of this.

The Conclusion
Jeans Blues: No Future does not have the same reputation as the more popular pinky violence films out there, but it is of no less quality. It’s a very strong and energetic effort that captures both the fun and intense nature of the genre without having to delve heavily into the world of exploitation. It gets a very solid four out of five and is an absolute recommend for all Meiko Kaji fans out there.

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