'Pigs and Battleships' 1961
Yakuza. The name of Japan's infamous mafia evokes images of the hyper-cool gangsters depicted in films like "Sonatine." But the hoods that populate "Pigs and Battleships", one of the very first yakuza movies ever made, are anything but cool. They're a crew of bumbling, crude, venal, wingnuts trying to make a buck in post-war Japan.
A satirical look at the relationship between a U.S. Naval base and the ordinary Japanese people trying to survive in its environs, "Pigs and Battleships" has long been considered a classic of the mobster genre. But few such films tread the line between slapstick melodrama and hard-nosed realism so extraordinarily well.
Take, for instance, the fact that a major plot point revolves around acquiring the slops from the naval base to feed black market pigs. Yet this farcical narrative is gorgeously filmed in rich black and white and framed as though it's an epic Hollywood work from the '50s. The heightened contrast between form and content is part of what makes director Shohei Imamura's masterpiece one of a kind [source: Canby].