A characteristic view from the ceiling, repeated often in Escape From Japan.
Escape chronicles the misadventures of Tatsuo Ihara, a small-time criminal who dreams of seeking his fortune away from Japan. I've seen the type before in some of the "Nikkatsu Noir" films collected in a Criterion Eclipse box set last year. While the Nikkatsu protagonists usually yearned to go to Brazil and make a new start through hard work, Tatsuo wants to become a celebrity entertainer in America. He idolizes the Rat Pack and fancies himself a singer in their style. Yoshida portrays a people enthralled by American pop culture, the probably inevitable result of the American occupation. Later in the film we'll see a Japanese woman with a GI boyfriend cajole a black GI into doing a Harry Belafonte impersonation. At the same time, Japan is celebrating its restoration as a respectable nation by hosting the 1964 Olympics. By doing so, are they reasserting their own autonomous identity or is this another instance of aping the West or angling for its approval? Yoshida doesn't exactly take a stand one way or another, but by having Tatsuo eventually intrude on the Olympic celebrations he does seem to be raising the question.
Tatsuo's initial concern is with helping his cool drummer buddy Takashi rob a Turkish bath in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. It's an inside job; Takashi's girlfriend Yasue works there. They take a tough guy along who proves the only competent member of the gang, since Tatsuo's a nervous novice and Takashi proves a hopeless drug addict who passes out in the middle of blowtorching a safe. They still manage to escape with the swag, but not without taking a cop on an unwanted ride that ends with a bullet.
Taro Okamoto. Similarly, the score is shared by the banal American-style pop music Tatsuo loves (apparently composed by Masao Yagi) and the astringent, portentiously modernist sounds of Toru Takemitsu. The juxtaposition of musical styles is effective, but the paintings look more like a way to maintain Yoshida's "Japanese New Wave" credentials.
Samples from cinematography by Toichiro Narushima.
I was entertained by the satire and by Yoshida's stylish direction, but I don't think his heart was in this film as much as it was invested in Akitsu Springs. From what I've read, Escape suffered from studio interference that prodded Yoshida toward independence in the future. Looking at the films to come, there are a lot more intense-sounding romances (including a version of Wuthering Heights) and few if any crime films. As a crime film, Escape doesn't surpass the best of the films it satires, but it does build up the case for Yoshida as a director we should know more about.
Maybe you'll get a better idea from this trailer, uploaded to YouTube by TheAsianVisionS: