Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)

Retrospective screenings are always a dicey proposition for a film festival. With your audience always hungry for the latest and the greatest bringing in old titles can be a sure fire way to bleed money at the box office. If your audience isn't already familiar with the title they'll generally pass it up for some brand new film that they won't be able to see elsewhere. But if they are already familiar with the title they've probably already seen it and so are unlikely to drop the money to see it again when there are other viewing options available to them. So kudos go to festivals such as Fantasia and Udine which always include a major retrospective as part of their lineup and kudos again to the Fantasia audience who came out in force, selling out the festival's first screening of Nikkatsu Action classic A Colt Is My Passport. And that crowd got a major treat.

Throughout the 1960s Japanese film studio Nikkatsu turned out a huge number of films that they brand Nikkatsu Action, films that took the action genres of the west as their starting point. While they are still distinctly Japanese these films ignore the serious yakuza films and the chanbara dramas that were popular at the time in Japan, instead taking Hollywood film noir and the French New Wave as their starting point. And the results were some of the most unique and compelling film to come out of Japan during that era. But as compelling as these things are they have never been widely available in the west. Nikkatsu viewed them purely as disposable local entertainment and, therefore, didn't even attempt to distribute them outside of Japan. Of the huge catalog of Nikkatsu Action titles only a handful were ever even assigned official English titles. These films were simply never seen until Japan Times writer Mark Schilling put together a major retrospective of them for the U?dine Far East Film Festival a couple years back, a retrospective which has been culled slightly and put on tour of North America by Outcast Cinema's Marc Walkow. The series finally took its first Canadian bow last night with the premiere screening of Takashi Nomura's A Colt Is My Passport and what a treat it was.

Seijun Suzuki regular Jo Shishido stars as a freelance hitman hired by a local gang to take down a rival gang boss sometime within the next twenty four hours. He agrees and pulls the job off with his customary efficiency but then everything goes to hell. The gang that hired him is angry about where he did the job and the rival gang - thirsty for revenge - trace the job back to him. The hunt is on and the hitman and his assistant are left largely to their own devices to free themselves from a perilous situation.

A Colt Is My Passport is a compelling blend of influences. Don't let the Japanese gangsters fool you: these crime families have more in common with the European mafia than with the yakuza. The visual style is obviously lifted straight from 1950s film noir with Shishido cast perfectly as the quiet and brooding anti hero. The cinematography is crisp black and white and flawlessly composed. The European influence shines through in staging and pacing, several key sequences - the initial hit being a prime example - playing out in near silence, Nomura telling his story purely with the visuals and letting his pacing and the rhythm of the editing build the tension. So far we have Japanese gangs fused with Hollywood noir and a touch of Euro arthouse,but Nomura's not done there. The crowning acheivement, and the touch that really makes the film sing, is the inclusion of a heavy spaghetti western influence. The soundtrack could be vintage Morricone and when Shishido squares off with his rivals in an abandoned, sandy wasteland, the influence is unmistakable and glorious.

A Colt Is My Passport was apparently considered a fairly minor title by Nikkatsu at the time but it is a sharp, compelling film, one that has stood up to the test of time beautifully. Its fusion of styles and influences results in something truly unique, a treasure that can - and should - be recognized by fans of classic Hollywood, European arthouse and modern cult films alike.

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