I try to support the zine realm when I can, and there’s some good spots selling a good selection right now. If you passed through the Lorimer Street L Train stop during 2013, you might have seen Alldayeveryday and Lele Saveri’s Newsstand project. Rather than being the spot to grab an issue of F.E.D.S. and a marked-up grape soda, this was the place to grab the kind of pieces that go on sale at events like Saveri’s 8 Ball fair. Given the fertile nature of the scene and the sheer array of genres to navigation, there’s room for a good primer on the topic. Skira Rizzoli are putting out a book on the project and the zines it sold that, with shades of Kramer’s coffee table book, is designed to look like a zine. It could be good, but it’s also nice to know that the MoMA will be hosted a complete reproduction of the Newsstand, complete with the original stock, to coincide with this book’s release in November.
You have to be careful when it comes to glorification of organised crime (though Yamaguchi-gumi leader Kenicha Shinoda has some significant steez), but I maintain that Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza epic Battles Without Honor and Humanity, plus its four sequels (to my great shame, I’ve never watched the New Battles Without Honor and Humanity series, though Graveyard of Honor is equally essential), telling a tale that runs from 1946 to 1970, is as good as cinema gets. While the language and cultural barrier means this epic never gets the same attention that its mafia counterparts have had, the strange distribution hasn’t helped either. The majority haven’t picked up on the scale and brutal craftsmanship of Fukasaku’s violent, realist mob world, with freeze frames holding the more vicious moments and some innovative ways to help a viewer keep up with the time-shifting complexity of the world he depicts. Lettering and montages might have become standard in hooligan turned crime boss Brit dross, their use here is masterful. Even the popularity of the director’s Battle Royale at the twilight of his life didn’t pull these flicks out of the cult flick ghetto over here. A great Yakuza Papers Blu-ray set released a few years back then descended into the Amazon Marketplace world of triple-digit asking prices, but Arrow Video are bringing it all back this winter. Arrow have managed to juggle classics and well-regarded video store trash favourites with aplomb of late, bringing Criterion-levels of attention to each release to become a flagship label. The upcoming Battles Without Honor and Humanity boxset promises DVD and Blu-ray editions of all five films, excellent art by Reinhard Kleist (whose Nick Cave bio looks great), a special 200+ minute edit of the first four, a 150-page hardback book titled The Yakuza Papers, and a ton of extras that even catches up with a stuntman and fight choreographer. At 80 pounds, it isn’t cheap, but it’s safe to assume that once the 5,000 run disappears, plenty of us will find ourselves scrabbling to pick it up. If you’re a fan of crime films and the likes of Takeshi Miike (who also contributes to the box set’s additions) haven’t checked these films out before, I guarantee that they’ll enrich your existence.