Trailer for 殺人狂時代 ("The Age of Assassins")
THE AGE OF ASSASSINS (殺人狂時代 - "Satsujin Kyo Jidai" in Japan) is one of the best movies I've ever watched that I also freely confess to not quite understanding. I picked it up on VHS long ago because of its tangential relationship to Japanese sci-fi, and usually, watching unsubtitled Japanese SF movies is not really an issue. Well, as I viewed this film, it dawned on me that it wasn't really an SF movie at all, but more a black comedy mixed with liberal doses of artistry, psychology, and action. I suspect it's difficult if you HAVE a translation handy, or even if you're fluent in the language. A cursory Google search seems to reveal that there are fan subtitles floating around out there, and if I ever purchase the film on DVD (it's on the short list!), I may need to to look into them.
THE AGE OF ASSASSINS is a directorial effort of Kihachi Okamoto, one of the great Japanese film directors. Seriously, you should look into his body of work that's available in this country. The star is Tatsuya Nakadai, who really shows off his range and versatility in his role. Also on hand are Eisei Amamoto, Reiko Dan, and Hideo Sunazuka. Amamoto is properly sinister, and yet at the same time affable - the kind of thing he did so well. Dan, not as revered by Western fanboys as Kumi Mizuno and Mie Hama due to her not being in monster movies, makes a wonderful heroine- if you can call anyone in this movie any derivative of "hero". And Sunazuka? I only knew of him from GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER, and his character in THE AGE OF ASSASSINS has a lot in common with "Nita". There are plenty of other familiar faces from tokusatsu lurking through the movie, too.
If you've watched the trailer, you've seen the amazing camerawork and photography. You've noticed the stylish art direction, and heard the memorable Masaru Sato score. So I'll just take a moment to mention the darkly hilarious animated opening titles which are not hinted at in the preview. They are perverse and cute at the same time. I mean, at one point, the kanji for "hachi" in Kihachi Okamoto's name is represented by an 8 ball!
THE AGE OF ASSASSINS seems like a prime candidate for a belated subtitled release on one of the prestige or arthouse labels out there. It's obscure, it's fantastic, and it's a movie more people need to see. Hopefully, that will happen someday.