A bold ruby dresses enchanting Tokiko’s finger. The jewel was not given to her by her “steady,” Joji, a former champion pugilist turned gangster, whose furious extracurricular fisticuffs also go undisputed. Instead, as Tokiko teasingly recounts, it was the gift of a coworker, eager to buy her favor. Her incendiary remarks were not without provocation: Joji’s been uncharacteristically domesticated by a flirtatious encounter with the angelic Kazuko, and Tokiko is having none of it. Kazuko has turned on the charm in order to redeem her brother, Hiroshi, a young boxer who’s taken to apprenticing Joji’s illicit exploits. Tokiko, struggling to rectify her partnership in crime, suggests a final heist that culminates in a flurry of action.
Dragnet Girl is an incredibly kinetic piece of silent cinema. Ozu’s left jab is an attraction of chaotic imagery – gymnastic rings in multiphase, pendular action; snooker balls rebounding against their bumpers; jump-ropes in full swing; and a gangster whose aggressive tic is to toss alarm-clocks where others might substitute a coin. His right hook is a precarious braid of aggressively interwoven trajectories. His final blow is a fascinating and exhaustive depiction of the facets of physical violence – knockouts, wake-up calls, and playful jabs. This is a jarring and spectacular combination, to be sure, but it’s perhaps a bit below the belt. Dragnet Girl's universe is one where all possibilities are contenders, where the function of a dice roll is to span instead of to permute. His character's motivations are similarly far-fetched. Fortunately, Ozu fills these gaps with comic exaggerations that generate goodwill where others might substitute exasperation.
- Dragnet Girl (Ozu 1933) @ BAM/PFA