Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Monbo - or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion

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A broad satirical farce (1992) by Juzo Itami (The Funeral, Tampopo, A Taxing Woman) about the efforts of a luxury hotel in Tokyo to rid itself of yakuza who are using the place as a hangout. These efforts prove ineffectual, thanks to the gangsters' not-so-gentle art of intimidation, until the hotel hires a lawyer (Nobuku Miyamoto, Itami's wife and frequent leading lady) who's well versed in the problems involved and who plans various counterattacks. Eventually this picture turns solemn and serious in order to hammer home points that are made more effectively through comedy, and there's a corny Western-elevator-music score (broken only occasionally by sinister patches of percussion) that may set your teeth on edge. But one sign of the relevance of this movie is that Itami was brutally attacked by three gangsters less than a week after it opened in Japan, leaving him with permanent scars he now wears as badges of honor. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 3 through 9.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Still.

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