|Wandering Ginza Butterfly (1971)|
|Writers:||Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, Isao Matsumoto|
|Starring:||Meiko Kaji and Tsunehiko Watase|
|The Plot: Nami the Cherryblossom has been released from prison after serving her time peacefully. Although we do not know what she was incarcerated for, we do see that she is deeply remourseful upon her return. While riding home on the train, she is grabbed by and forced to kiss a strange man, who is apparently being hunted by the yakuza. The kiss allows for the stranger to avoid his criminal persuers, and we soon find out that he is the notorious conman Shin, who is currently being tracked by the yakuza for writing a forged check. He thanks Nami for the kiss, and tells her to meet him in Ginza when she needs a friend. Nami seems to have different motives for visiting Ginza however, as she is quickly on the track of a woman named Saeko Yajima. We do not know who Saeko is, but she apparently pleaded for Nami’s sentence to be lightened and she is the main reason that Nami is back on the streets. Nami doesn’t want to approach the woman herself, so instead she sends the young pimp Ryuji (played by Tsunehiko Watase, from Terrifying Girls’ High School: Lynch Law Classroom) who gives her envelopes full of money on Nami’s behalf, money that she earns while working as a hostess alongside Ryuji’s friends. It isn’t long before the local yakuza begin to push in on everyone in this small community however, and they soon want a piece of the poolhall that Nami’s uncle owns. What will Nami do, who is Saeko and how will all of these loose ends resolve themselves?|
The first thing that may grab you is the use of comedy throughout the movie. This is not the sexy, nor deathly serious, take on the “action film” that the pinky violence genre usually entails. Meiko Kaji herself is best known for her incredibly distant and disillusioned characters, who more often than not stood around giving icy stares at any male that crossed her path. This does not prove to be the case with Wandering Ginza Butterfly. Showcasing a bevy of talents that many might not be aware that she actually had, Meiko Kaji is both dynamic in her comedic offerings as well as her general sweetness. That’s right, Meiko Kaji is a sweet and naive young girl in this film, and she even smiles! A lot! I could hardly believe that myself. Kaji stretches out moreso than she has in any role I have ever seen her in, including her well rounded turn in Blind Woman’s Curse. This character Nami is both street wise, hustling pool games seems to be her specialty, but she also has a very naive persona. Her “aww shucks!” personality gives the character life. Not just because this is Meiko Kaji playing against type, but the character in general is against type due to how common it was for these delinquent girl films to feature rigid and tough women in the lead.
There is a pool sequence during the third act of the film that can only be described as tremendous. In the midst of this back and forth, and relatively average, piece of yakuza cinema, there comes this really well paced and intense game of pool that seems to decide the fate of our entire cast. The sequence is incredibly well edited, and the plot up until this point puts so much emphasis on the game that the drama becomes ramped up beyond anything I could have expected. I won’t promise that every viewer will take away the same experience, but I certainly couldn’t help but finally find my own love for the movie at this point. Director Kazuhiko Yamaguchi isn’t held in the same regard as many of his fellow contemporaries, but he shows here that he was certainly capable of great things.