Hiroyuki Tanaka, also known by the alias Sabu, initially began his profession as an actor. However, in the 1990s, he transitioned into directing and found greater success in this role. He has gained recognition on a global scale, thanks to his distinct style of combining humor and emotional depth, often incorporating philosophical and social themes.
In many of his films, director’s works often feature running and walking as prominent themes. These actions serve as both a way to flee from danger, such as being pursued by a yakuza henchman, or to fulfill a duty, like a postman delivering mail. Additionally, some characters in his films are depicted as walkers, searching for a deeper understanding amidst chaotic circumstances.
This list discusses the ways in which Sabu incorporates running and walking into his work.
1. Dangan Runner (1996)
In his first film, the idea of running is introduced as all three main characters are at some point engaged in a pursuit. The director, Sabu, intertwines the journeys of these three individuals, revealing that they have been running from their troubles for most of their lives. However, as the film progresses, running takes on a deeper meaning as the escape it promises does not materialize.
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2. Postman Blues (1997)
Sabu’s second film, “Postman Blues”, feels like a continuation of the themes he explored in “Dangan Runner”. Shinichi Tsutsumi, a frequent star in Sabu’s earlier works, portrays Sawaki, a postman who unexpectedly becomes a suspect in a police investigation. Sawaki’s commitment to his job leads him to run, which ultimately makes him more relatable and human, as Sabu playfully challenges the idea of a dutiful servant who follows strict rules.
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3. Unlucky Monkey (1998)
Sabu’s third feature stars Shinichi Tsutsumi as Yamazaki, a clumsy bank robber, whose heist goes horribly wrong and who becomes entangled in a chaotic web of murder as his actions cause the death of a young woman. This time running away is both a physical as well as a metaphorical act, with bad outcomes as the main character must learn he cannot escape fate and a guilty conscience.
4. Monday (2000)
Although there may be differing opinions on the conclusion, SABU’s “Monday” is undeniably his most captivating work yet. Takagi, portrayed by Shinichi Tsutsumi, finds solace in alcohol rather than running, allowing his darker tendencies to surface. As he wanders through the bustling streets of Tokyo at night, it serves as a cautionary tale of the havoc we can cause when we are not attentive to the warning signs around us.
5. Blessing Bell (2002)
In 2002, SABU released two films, but “Blessing Bell” stands out as the most captivating one. It features Susumu Terajima as Igarashi, a man navigating the streets of Tokyo and encountering both yakuza members and a ghost (portrayed by Seijun Suzuki). While incorporating spiritual elements into a story can be challenging and come across as cheesy, “Blessing Bell” masterfully uses walking as a means to contemplate our contemporary society, the impact of chance and fortune on our lives, and the joy that often goes unnoticed when we rush through life.