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The Winner

(Shourisha)
Japan 1957. Dir: Umetsugu Inoue. 98 min. DCP

Umetsugu Inoue’s first film with rising-star Yujiro Ishihara tells the colourful story of a punk kid who gets serious about boxing after having the tar punched out of him. He’s managed by a former contender whose own championship dreams were unfulfilled. Inoue adds a subplot, inspired by Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 classic The Red Shoes, about an up-and-coming ballerina (Mie Kitahara) who falls for the boxer. Her 13-minute solo dance is one of the film’s highlights. Another is the climactic fight scene, filmed by Inoue with more than 200 cuts over the course of four days. The Winner lived up to its name at the box office, and proved to Inoue’s satisfaction that Ishihara could carry a film (his studio bosses needed more convincing). It also established the template — action-with-musical-interludes — for dozens of Nikkatsu films to come.