Mobster’s Confession [Gokudo zangeroku]
by Del Harvey
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In the ’80s, Japan cinema was pre-occupied with gangsters, manga comics, and the underdog’s story. Increasingly, a strong shift towards realism began and the result was an unusual form of cinema that echoed the financial desperation of that era. Characters and situation were desperate, lonely, and grasping for anything resembling hope or change. It is against this backdrop that director Mochizuki Rokuro (Onibi: The Fire Within, Another Lonely Hitman) presents this tale of a would-be mobster’s love for a pyromaniac. In Mobster’s Confessions, Asakawa Jiro (Matsuoka Shunsuke), is shown first on the run from a beating by some businessmen he scammed, and then in disguise when he poses as a government inspector working another scam to con the factory owner. We learn of this through his voice-over narration, where he tells us, quite matter-of-factly, about his system of making a living in an unfair world and the tricks conmen use. Much of his observations reveal humanity’s ability to cheat and lie to others, regardless of the pain and misery they case. And director Mochizuki seems to be making a critique of sorts, as much of the plot revolves not around the perfection of the confidence trick but its unraveling.
And from the beginning, as Jiro is walking home from a beating by the victims of his latest crime, he is unmasked by his obsession with Kumiko (Kanaya Amiko), the factory owner’s stepdaughter. In those first moments they share a secret not even the father knows: that she started a fire in one of the buildings in order to get back at her abusive stepfather. Of course, Jiro’s knowing makes their unmasking mutual. What results is a sexually and cerebrally charged alliance that drives the film’s characters forward in its exorable path to self-destruction.
Mobster’s Confessions was first a popular manga by novelist Asada Jiro and artist Kono Takeshi. Director Mochizuki, a graduate of Japan’s popular Image Forum an experimental film academy, proves he can produce hard-boiled action while translating the popular comic genre to the big screen.
Mobster’s Confessions is a tale of professional con artists who use their skill with falsehood to gain finances and power, and in the process destroy another’s trust. While not an uncommon theme, here Mochizuki favors the plight of the con artist, who seems unable to believe in anyone or anything but himself. Of course, he eventually finds himself all alone, never achieving mobster status, never moving beyond his limited vision of scamming successful businessmen and bankers for money. It is this lack of vision which is Jiro’s downfall, and even the socially dysfunctional Kumiko can see this.
Certainly nothing new is being told here, especially for Mochizuki. The real treat is in watching this variant on the isolated, misguided loner struggle to make the most of their limited abilities, and how those limitations fail them. Mochizuki has proven himself a master of this genre with Onibi and Another Lonely Hitman, and Mobster’s Confessions makes a worthy bookend to this fine trilogy of self-obliteration in an unforgiving world. Coming soon from ArtsMagicDVD.
Del Harvey is the publisher of Film Monthly. He lives in Chicago.
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