Whether Seijun Suzuki took LSD or not, he certainly had a monopoly on cinematic hallucinatory effects judging by Pistol Opera (2001), a remake of his earlier Branded To Kill. Wild explosions of colour rippling in perfect symmetry across the screen. Compositions which would have made Antonioni (think Zabriskie Point) green with envy. Also a massive dose of 60’s pop culture sartorial elegance if you’ve seen Tokyo Drifter. And I highly recommend the tribute site 45.Caliber Samurai, even if your interests don’t go beyond lurid film posters.
Wicki does a good job overviewing his life and films, and here’s the bit I like. Seijun Suzuki was born in 1923 and so got to serve in the Imperial forces during WW11. After surviving two shipwrecks, he wrote of his military career:
While I stayed in the army out of fear of being executed as a deserter as soon as I threw down my rifle and ran, it wasn’t long before I was promoted to trainee officer with a salary of twelve-and-a-half yen, comparable at the time to that of a departmental manager in business life. I went to the Philippines, where the war took a wrong turn for us. Then I was transferred to Taiwan, where I was stationed at an isolated airport at the foot of a mountain, with twelve others. Our wages were divided into thirteen equal parts; as in a perfect communist system. To avoid the outbreak of a revolt because of sexual deprivation, we didn’t just get food, clothing and shelter, but the army staff had also considered it strategically necessary to supply us with three army prostitutes. This isn’t a very edifying story, but I can’t help it: I spent most of my money on booze and women, and when I arrived at Tanabe harbor the year after liberation, I was completely destitute.
It was little wonder that he adopted a fuck you view of work in the rigidly controlled Japanese studio system of the-then five major companies. Lets not get too exercised by tight plot lines: narratives best unfold around over-the-top imagery, lots of violence and the occasional sexual peccadillo never hurts. And if you worry about your paraphilia’s, watch Youth of the Beast for the golf club scene (if I recall correctly), and you’ll feel ….um….normal. Tremendous set of stills from the film HERE.
In 1964 Suzuki returned to the extremely mean streets of bombed out buildings and black markets in post 1945 Tokyo with Gates of Flesh, a tale of a foulmouthed sisterhood of working girls (a futen and not futon, okay) “…maintaining tenuous friendships and a semblance of order in a world of chaos, …. when a renegade ex-soldier/black marketeer stumbles into their midst, lusts and loyalties clash, with tragic results. With Gate of Flesh, he ….. delivers a whirlwind of social critique and pulp drama, shot through with brilliant colors and raw emotions”.
An erudite essay HERE, and a youtube clip from the film – retribution for the new girl who broke the cardinal rule of the working sisterhood – no free sex.
Another really good overview of Suzuki’s life and the film HERE.
Finally, John Woo is undertaking a remake of Youth of the Beast. I don’t think I will be searching it out – probably all gloss and digital effects – having just been totally disappointed by Takeshi Kitano’s latest offering Outrage which as this review indicates is a pile of pointless crap. Need an introduction to Office Kitano, try Boiling Point instead.
If you can deal with youtube’s lo-fi colour values, here’s the original Youth of the Beast in its entirety
Just can’t seem to finish this series: McHale’s take on this blogging albatross series.
Tags: Seijun Suzuki