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Postman Blues ("Posutoman burusu")

  • Japan
  • 1997
  • 110 mins
  • Video
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)

“A virtuoso exercise in storytelling… a funny, inventive and winning charmer” – Tom Mes, MIDNIGHT EYE

Sawaki the postman is the perfect picture of innocence, if not exceptional competence. With an affable smile plastered on his boyish face, he rolls through his ordinary routine each day on his red bicycle. By chance one day, he delivers a letter to his old high school friend Noguchi — just as Nogushi has finished chopping his own finger off to earn absolution from his yakuza gang boss. Long story short, the finger ends up in Sawaki’s bag, Noguchi’s in hot water with his gang, the cops suspect Sawaki’s a murderous mafia maniac — and Sawaki, visiting the cancer ward of the local hospital, has struck up a friendship with a cool-as-ice hitman named Joe and fallen for a terminally ill young beauty named Sayoko.

A shooting star streaked across the screens of Japanese cinema around the turn of the millennium. Over the course of six films starting with 1996’s DANGAN RUNNER, actor-turned-director Sabu, aka Hiroyuki Tanaka, distinguished himself with his knack for clever, energetic, exceptionally empathic black comedy. His hilarious, hyperactive debut was followed by UNLUCKY MONKEY, MONDAY DRIVE and 2002’s masterful BLESSING BELL, showcasing bellwether-of-cool actor Susumu Terajima — who pops up as a wound-up cop in POSTMAN BLUES, Sabu’s 1997 sophomore effort. Sabu’s first five films starred Shinichi Tsutsumi, invariably as the well-intentioned yet timid and hapless regular joe in over his head. The director’s devilishly quirky constructs of cause and effect caught up cops, crooks, salarymen and civil servants alike, forcing them to face what they are and could be. The burdens of constricting conventions and identities, a pronounced concern already in Japanese art, are examined with great compassion, but never at the expense of inspired, off-the-wall antics (and in the case of POSTMAN BLUES, witty winks at crime-thriller contemporaries of the day).

— Rupert Bottenberg