His loose affiliation with the ’60s New Wave of Japanese arthouse cinema belies Kinji Fukasaku's raw commercial appeal. His 40-year career is bookended by two films that changed his country's cinema, both in terms of domestic consumption and how it's perceived abroad: 'Battle Without Honour or Humanity' (1973) and 'Battle Royale' (2000). The former wrenched the yakuza genre from its staid plotlines and obsession with old-fashioned notions of duty and honour, and spiced it up with a dose of realism and post-war nihilism. The latter, which looks at what happens when a class of schoolkids is armed to the hilt and dumped on an island, is an excoriating satire of reality TV that served as the template for 'The Hunger Games'.
Both were such big commercial smashes that they tend to overshadow Fukasaku's other works; this retrospective, then, is a timely excuse to explore the rest of his sprawling oeuvre, from the multiple 'Battle Without Honor' sequels to the brilliant WWII detective drama 'Under the Flag of the Rising Sun'. Documentaries on the subject include an overview of his career presented by Quentin Tarantino, whose debt to the Japanese director is obvious.
The Cinémathèque Française runs a full retrospective of Fukasaku's films from July 2 to August 3. Click here for more information (in French), including the programme.