Although not a pure yakuza film, it does have quite a few of the genre's elements and, more importantly, it truly gets inside the sociopathic soul that serves as fertile ground for the ever-burgeoning yakuza ranks.
The story of an orphan girl, brought up in naive, rustic innocence by an elderly relative, who is suddenly exposed to the brutality, greed and deceptiveness of the outside world, when her grandmother dies.
Yuko is sent to the coastal regions to be raised away from the rest of her sophisticated family where she finds out from her ill grandmother that she is actually the love child of her wealthy businessman father and his ex-secretary.
Based on the novel "Sprinter" by Daikichi Oouchi, this movie was made in the year of Mexico Olympics, and life of Olympic athlete is the focus of the story. The unusual twist in the plot is the girl who has talent as a 100 meter sprinter is also suffering from sex identity symptom of intersex. The director of this movie Yasuzo Masumura is one of the greats of Japanese cinema, and television. During his early career, he spent time in Italy, and learned from Federico Fellini, and Lucino Visconti. He was known for his direct and modern expression, and this movie is no exception.
Hiroko (Michiyo Ookusu) is a talented athlete, and after being dispelled from a corporate basketball team, the company's track team coach Shirou (Ken Ogata) discovers her talent as a short distance runner. Shirou and Hiroko soon shacks up together at Shiro's apartment, but Shirou maintains professional relationship with Hiroko. Soon Hiroko starts to get world class time in her sprints. But her time is too good and gets suspicion that she might be a he. Shirou volunteers Hiroko for sex check, but the result comes out that she is intersex and would not qualify for the Olympics. Shirou then decides on a radical plan to make Hiroko into a real woman, but that also invites an undesirable side effect.
Very experimental movie, but the late '60s was a period of such cultural experimentation, and director Yasuzo Masumura adds directness to the expression. Two great Japanese actors Ken Ogata, and Michiyo Ookusu adds reality to this movie, and carries the plot. It's a difficult movie to find, but as the rating shows, it seems to get high marks from people who've seen it. Plot was intriguing, but bit unbelievable. There is no way that Shirou wouldn't have noticed the change in Hiroko over the period of their practice. This movie, is rarely seen these days, and will probably remain as somewhat of a cult classic of Japanese cinema.
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