Issue 32 (2011)

Sergei Bodrov, Guka Omarova: A Yakuza's Daughter Never Cries (Doch’ Iakudzy, 2010)

reviewed by Mariya Y. Boston © 2011


yakuza“It is important for us to laugh today because most of us do not have an ‘easy’ life—there are plenty of problems. But it is time to laugh now at our selves, our bosses and our lives,” Sergei Bodrov said during the presentation of his recent film A Yakuza's Daughter Never Cries (Press Attache). This “Japanese-Russian comedy” revolves around the adventures of the ten-year-old Yuriko (delightfully portrayed by Chiko Arakawa), the granddaughter of a powerful Japanese Yakuza (played by Naomasa Yusaka), who ends up in an unknown Russian coastal town when her plane makes an emergency landing. When on the run from the rival gangster Nakato, Yuriko saves the life of the escaped prisoner, Lekha (Vadim Dorofeev). He, therefore, must “serve her all his life” as the Japanese code of honor requires, and the film follows the mishaps and adventures of this pair as they run from cops, bandits, thieves, an angry newlywed, local nudists and Japanese mafia only to happily return to where they belong at the film’s end.

yakuzaThe film's plot is neither complex nor unpredictable. From the first intercutting sequence between a small but tough Yuriko in Japan and the “honest” prisoner Aleksei Avdeev in Russia, it becomes clear that these two will soon meet. Likewise, from the very first minutes, the film establishes its major themes: honesty and honor. In fact, the film actually begins with a hara-kiri, so the man who was sent to kill Yakuza will “not [die] as a dog” (A Yakuza's Daughter). Honor, as perceived in different national cultures, becomes a major point of comparison. While the film suggests that Japanese relationships are based on the concepts of honor and dignity, relationships in Russia are determined by the amount of money involved: anything and anyone can be sold, bought and traded, including Yuriko. And while Russians are not necessarily portrayed as absolutely evil, they nevertheless appear to be much more easily swayed one way or another (and thus not quite as “honorable” as the Japanese) depending on the sum of dollars or Euros at stake.

yakuzaNevertheless, A Yakuza’s Daughter is not a satire. In fact, it is somewhat hard to say what it is—besides funny. The film may appear at times too brutal for children, while also too unrealistic and occasionally rather primitive for more mature audiences. However, this defines comedy for Guka Omarova: “This is not a realistic movie, it is not a drama, it is a comedy and we tell the story with humor” (“O s”emkakh”). It seems that A Yakuza’s Daughter could be seen as a cinematographic version of a Japanese anime, where all the girls have big eyes and often find a rather European-looking handsome friend (Lekha), where curvy blonds (Marfa) rule the family, while teachers go crazy and grandpas are kind, but tough.

Despite a rather simple and almost a fairy-tale storyline (the girl gets lost—the girl finds a helper—the girl is fought over—the girl is brought back home), what really holds the film together is its fantastic cast. Bodrov is famous for finding new and often unknown actors for his films, this time he works with Guka Omarova and they bring in such actors as Sergei Garmash (in the role of Lekha’s uncle) who is known for his work in comedies. Irina Rozanova as Marfa, Sergei Gazarov as Yakut and Viktor Sukhorukov in the role of a somewhat insane teacher put so much self-irony into their characters that we can only smile. We smile when Sukhorukov’s character talks about his attempt to implement hara-kiri into the Russian culture. In fact, he has already suggested hara-kiri to the “public prosecutor, chief of police department, head doctor of the psychiatric hospital” and some others, however none have agreed (A Yakuza’s Daughter). We smile when Marfa first punches Lekha in the face for coming in the middle of the night, then punches her husband for arguing and with that gets a title of yakuza. Marfa even appears as Anka the gunner when she tries to protect Yuriko (or rather the reward promised by Yuriko's grandfather) with a huge and somewhat outdated machine gun.
 
yakuzaThe humor aside, the film does not strike the viewer as particularly funny or captivating. Importantly, the topic of run-away prisoners and their interaction with children with a hint of Japanese flavor has already been skillfully explored in the comedy Hard Labor Vacation (Kanikuly strogogo rezhima, dir. Igor’ Zaitsev, 2009 reviewed in Kinokultura 28). Generally speaking, A Yakuza's Daughter is full of cinematographic quotations. For example, the soundtrack for the chase sequence, in which Lekha and Yuriko are followed by an angry bride (Anna Mikhalkova) and a crowd of nudists, is from the film The Elusive Avengers (Neulovimye Msititeli, dir. Keosaian, 1967). Special effects are borrowed from The Matrix (dir. Wachowski, 1999), Wanted (Bekmambetov, 2008) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000). While the characters themselves can be traced to numerous prison dramas and comedies (such as the Russian version of Prison Break, or Hard Labor Vacation, or the Soviet classic Gentlemen of Fortune). However, this heavy quotation brings forth the comic element and stresses the film’s playful nature.

yakuzaThus, essentially, A Yakuza’s Daughter is what one would call a “feel-good” movie: it is fun and often engaging. There is no development of characters or ideas, but everything comfortably returns back to where it was in the beginning, i.e. its proper place: Lekha is in Russia, where people and habits do not change. Yuriko follows her family tradition and becomes a Yakuza after her grandfather’s release from prison and his subsequent retirement. Perhaps the beauty of the film lies in its incredible lightness. The film leaves a feeling similar to that of reading a fairytale: one just wants to make sure that in the end the prince gets the princess. Here: that the little girl is reunited with her grandfather and not as lonely as she was in the beginning. Now she has found a friend in Lekha, who would not leave her “alone in the forest” (A Yakuza’s Daughter). As a simple fairy-tale comedy the film is great, and perhaps could make a really fantastic animation picture. 

Mariya Y. Boston
UC Davis

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Works Cited

O s”emkakh Doch’ Iakudzy”, YouTube.

“Ekaterinburg pervym uvidel novyi fil’m Sergeia Bodrova starshego,” Komanda Press-Attache.

 


A Yakuza's Daughter Never Cries, Russia 2010
Color, 120 min.
Directors Sergei Bodrov Sr., Guka Omarova
Scriptwriters Sergei Bodrov Sr., Ganna Slutski, Evgenii Frolov
Cinematography Sergei Trofimov
Composer Tuomas Kantelinen 
Film Editing Ivan Lebedev
Sound Aleksandr Kopeikin
Cast Chiko Arakawa, Vadim Dorofeev, Irina Rozanova, Vitalii Gaev, Sergei Garmash, Sergei Gazarov.
Producers Sergei Selianov, Sergei Bodrov Sr., Tatiana Bykovskaia
Production Kinofabrika, Kinokompaniia CTB, Tengri

Sergei Bodrov, Guka Omarova: A Yakuza's Daughter Never Cries (Doch’ Iakudzy, 2010)

reviewed by Mariya Y. Boston © 2011

Updated: 13 Apr 11