Taking place around the time of the Tokyo Olympiad, Escape From Japan chronicles the midsadventures of Tatsuo Ihara, a mentally slow, small-time criminal who dreams of one day becoming a successful Jazz Singer in America. After a bath-house heist goes bad, Tatsuo finds himself on the run from the police with a young female accomplice in tow. Yoshishige Yoshida's Escape From Japan is very different than most of Yoshida's work, venturing into genre filmmaking territory though with satiricial intentions aplenty. The film works as a strange black comedy and even stranger romance between our dim-witted main protagonist and the young female accomplice but Escape From Japan's true intentions are much more grandoise. Thematically this film is very much about imperialism, showing the footprint the American occupation has had on Japanese culture. Yoshida portrays the Japanese as individuals who have become enthralled by American pop culture. We see this not only through Tatsuo's infatuation with Jazz but also in smaller moments, one example being a Japanese woman and her GI boyfriend singing a famous American song. Setting the film during the 1964 Olympics was a brilliant decision, with Japan celebrating its restoration, raising a profound question about this so-called "restoration" - is it Japan rediscovering their personal identity? or are they introducing a Westernized version? Like many great filmmakers, Yoshida never makes his intentions abrubtly clear, simply raising the question to the masses. Yoshishige Yoshida's Escape From Japan isn't a top tier title of his but when you are talking about one of the greatest and most underappreciated filmmakers of all time, does it matter?
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