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Life Is Short: Nikkatsu Studios at 100

Saturday, September 1, 2012
8:15 p.m. A Colt Is My Passport
Takashi Nomura (Japan, 1967)

New 35mm print!

"An existentially poetic actioner worthy of Howard Hawks or Sergio Leone."—Sydney Film Festival

(Colt wa ore no passport). One man, one plan, and a thousand bullets: a swaggering Jo Shishido takes on the mob with effortless cool in Takashi Nomura’s tough-as-nails noir, fueled in equal parts by American crime thrillers, French existentialism, and Italian spaghetti westerns. A crisply suited gunman (Shishido) and his guitar-strumming buddy Shun (Jerry Fujio) need a way out of town, fast, after assassinating a mob boss; several deceptions, misdirections, fights, and song numbers later, all that remains is an astonishing final shootout at an abandoned, desolate landfill. Made in 1967, at the tail end of Nikkatsu’s “borderless action” (mukokuseki akushon) genre, Colt showcases its international influences from the start: a harmonica-and-guitar, Morricone-like score wails over the opening credits, while Shishido—in one of his first “hero” roles—delivers a performance that’s both inspired by—yet easily out-suaves—those of Eastwood, Belmondo, or Bogart. While the film’s finale is literally explosive—and played out in a flattened landscape stripped of all reference points—it’s the build-up that’s truly memorable: never has preparing for a gunfight been documented so painstakingly, or so lovingly.

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Shuichi Nagahara, Nobuo Yamada. Photographed by Shigeyoshi Mine. With Jo Shishido, Jerry Fujio, Chitose Kobayashi. (84 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Nikkatsu, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)