Young Yakuza(メモ)


April 18, 2008
Life in the Japanese Mafia
Published: April 18, 2008

A good documentarian realizes that, if he is tracking subjects over an extended period, he shouldn’t assume he knows where the story will go. Jean-Pierre Limosin’s “Young Yakuza,” about Japan’s version of the Mafia, starts out in one direction, but when things don’t go quite as Mr. Limosin might have envisioned, he has the good sense to shift his focus in midfilm.

Mr. Limosin was invited to follow the Kumagai clan in Tokyo for 18 months, with the seemingly stifling provision that he not film illegal activities. This means there are no shocking revelations, but the film wasn’t intended as an exposé. It’s more like one of those mournful looks at an endangered species.

Mr. Limosin initially followed a 20-year-old delinquent named Naoki as he did an apprenticeship with the clan, after which he was to decide whether to join: a simple narrative culminating in a crucial choice. But that plan is thrown for a loop midway through, and Mr. Limosin turns his attention to the gaunt, raspy-voiced man referred to only as “the Boss.” Even if he is playing for the cameras a bit, this fellow convinces you that crime families are as worried about staying relevant as, say, churches or 4-H Clubs. “We have to reflect on how we can provide hopes and dreams for the youth of today,” he says incongruously. “It is a real problem for us.”


Opens on Friday in Manhattan.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Limosin; in Japanese, with English subtitles; directors of photography, Julien Hirsch and Céline Bozon; edited by Tina Baz; music by RGM/Xavier Jamaux; produced by Hengameh Panahi and Chistian Baute; released by Cinema Epoch. At the Imaginasian Theater, 239 East 59th Street, Manhattan. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. This film is not rated.