Author Topic: Seijun Suzuki  (Read 1614 times)

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analogzombie

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Seijun Suzuki
« on: January 07, 2004, 01:58:01 AM »
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There are three Suzuki films coming out on dvd soon: 'Kanto Wanderer', 'Underworld Beauty', and 'Tattooed Life'. Figured now was a good time to get a discussion going. So here's topic question:

Do you think that the editing style of 'Branded to Kill' limits its ability to tell its story? Is it as 'incomprehensible' as the movie studio said it was?
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analogzombie

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Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2004, 05:03:21 AM »
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well we can chat about Tokyo Drifter and Pistol Opera then okay...  :wink:

Do you feel that the color transitions in Tokyo Drifter heighten or detract from the violence taking place during these scenes?

is Pistol Opera a desperate attempt by Suzuki to capitalize on his new found appreciation in the west or simply the logical continuation of thematic ideas he has been developing since the 60's?
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lamas

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Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2004, 06:40:35 AM »
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whadya need to write a report on it or something?  the color just makes it look cool.

analogzombie

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Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2004, 11:42:34 AM »
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haha, i was just trying to get something going, but you make a good point. Do you think Suzuki was just trying to spice up the bland storyline with some cool imagery or was it a decision based on some artistic theme he was attempting to work ino the subtext?

I love the Nightclub set that is floodded with colored light.
***SPOILERS***

The end sequence where it is encased in darkness, then as tetsu opens the door (wearing a white suit no less) the room suddenly goess all-white, classic, beautiful and great to look at.
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You Never Got Me Down Ray

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Re: Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2004, 09:45:30 PM »
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Quote
Do you think that the editing style of 'Branded to Kill' limits its ability to tell its story? Is it as 'incomprehensible' as the movie studio said it was?


I just saw this for the first time and really there was nothing bad about it. The cinematography was great and the editing was good. I didn't notice the editing taking away from the storytelling much, but I can see where you are coming from. The beginning was a bit confusing at first and better editing might have been able to take care of that, but after the scene was over, I think I understood what I had just seen. No, not as imcomprehensible as I had heard. The first little mission was the only thing I was not so certain about, everything else was pretty coferent.

The only thing I didn't like were those weird white paintings flashing on screen for some reason--rain, bird, butterfly, rain, huh! That was kinda wack, but other than that...
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analogzombie

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Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2004, 11:50:03 PM »
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yeah, those flashes are probably one of the things that they used to get Suzuki fired (though it was also just an excuse to cut back on expenses).

I just saw 'Tattooed Life' and I think it's the film that his 'colorist' techniques really shine in. ***SPOILERS***

The way he used red to code Kenji's death and begin the final tetsu fight sequence was brilliant. Red is in every shot from the moment Kenji is killed to the time when Tetsu leaves the bar to seek revenge. very nice. I also felt that the flashes of red in the dark when firing the gun where done quite well also. It didn't have the flare of 'Tokyo Drifter's final sequence, but it incorporated Suzuki's eccentric and dramatic effects into the whole of the work better IMO. Whereas Kanto Wanderer had but a single flash of this style, so as to make it feel very out of place, Tattooed Life uses the emotion of Tetsu over Kenji's death as the catalyst for these effects. The whole works better than the visual flares in his other films,IMO.

Branded to Kill is different though. i can understand why it stands out among his work. Since the film is in B & W Suzuki can't use his vivid primary colors to 'set sequences off'. Instead he uses eccentric imagery such as those flashes mentioned above, and a kinetic editing style. I really enjoy the fact that in some sequences you never fully understand what is happening until the end.

I hope more Seijun films get released by Criterion and HVe soon, b/c I love all that have been released thus far.
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citizenaniki

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Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2004, 05:06:01 PM »
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Kanto Wanderer looks really interesting to me, but Tattoed Life seems right up my alley.  I don't know which one I should watch first.

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Re: Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2006, 12:29:36 PM »
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Man on the moon
Women with a fetish for smelling rice, people shot through plugholes and now a musical about a prince and a raccoon in love. Dare you enter the extraordinary world of film-maker Seijun Suzuki?
By Steve Rose; The Guardian


 
Not many people outside Japan have heard of Seijun Suzuki, but an awful lot of film-makers seem to have. It almost goes without saying that Quentin Tarantino is a fan of the 83-year-old director. Baz Luhrmann described him as "a director who seems to have known the future before it happened". You can see his influence in the works of Hong Kong stylists such as Wong Kar-Wai and John Woo, and in the ultimate accolade, indie overlord Jim Jarmusch even ripped off his film Branded to Kill wholesale. Given the number and spread of his disciples, you could be forgiven for wondering if his omission from the history books wasn't part of some odd conspiracy.

Suzuki is a curious illustration of the equation between cult value and commercial reality. The qualities for which he is celebrated by today's postmodern cultural magpies are the very ones that cost him half his career. Like virtually all directors in postwar Japan, he operated within the confines of the country's Hollywood-styled studio system. Suzuki was with the Nikkatsu studio, where he churned out about four B-movies a year between the mid-1950s and 60s - mostly gangster thrillers or tame exploitation films with titles such as Age of Nudity, and The Naked Woman and the Gun. At some point, though, Suzuki started to deviate from the norm, and his pictures became more and more idiosyncratic.
While cinematic invention was seen as an attribute in Europe and among Japan's artier directors, such as Nagisa Oshima, Suzuki's toying was taken as downright insubordination. Suzuki rarely let logic get in the way of a good image, but his films are far from empty. In 1966's groovy gangster movie Tokyo Drifter, for example, the hero wears a powder-blue suit and white shoes throughout, and sings his own theme tune as he wanders in and out of vibrantly hued nightclubs as if he's in a pop video. But at the same time, the movie presents a modern Japan in which the old yakuza value system has been superseded by corporate greed. His other films from the period dish out even more anti-patriotic sentiments. Fighting Elegy, set in the 1930s, charts the rise of Japanese fascism in the guise of a wacky youth movie, while 1964's lurid Gates of Flesh finds mob honour among a group of prostitutes operating in a bombed-out postwar Tokyo, holding Americans and Japanese in equal contempt.

The breaking point came with 1967's Branded to Kill, today considered his masterpiece. Shot in black-and-white, with a hip, jazzy soundtrack and pop-art styling, it is ostensibly the tale of a yakuza's quest to become "No 1 Killer", by bumping off higher-ranking assassins. But as the hero progresses, the plot becomes ever more labyrinthine and nonsensical. Suzuki puts anything he likes into his crazy little world, be it a femme fatale who lives among dead butterflies or a protagonist with a fetish for the smell of freshly boiled rice, or some ingenious assassination techniques - one victim is shot through the plughole of his sink. When our hero finally confronts the reigning No 1 Killer, though, there's no climactic battle. Instead the story practically dissolves into paranoia and unresolved madness. Suzuki was duly fired by Nikkatsu.

"They said my film was incomprehensible. It didn't matter whether I thought it was a good film. I couldn't disagree. I just had to take it," says Suzuki today. "And once Nikkatsu sacked me, none of the other film companies would hire me."

In the 40 years since, Suzuki has survived on TV work and the occasional one-off movie, but if he has any regrets about what happened, he has long since dealt with them. "Making films for me is just about earning money, it's not fun at all," he laughs. "It's just a profession, like you being a journalist." Today, in London, he's in fine spirits, smiling, joking and laughing, despite his obvious physical frailty (he has a portable oxygen cylinder to help him breathe), and severe jet lag.

Perhaps his good cheer is the result of his recent marriage to a younger woman. But whether or not he takes pleasure from it, he's making films again. Five years ago, he released Pistol Opera, a thriller that's more a remake of Branded to Kill than a sequel to it, replete with another stable of eccentric assassins and lurid set pieces. And last year he finished another movie, Princess Raccoon, which has international interest thanks to the casting of Zhang Ziyi, Chinese star of House of Flying Daggers and Memoirs of A Geisha.

Even by Suzuki's standards, Princess Raccoon is eccentric. It is based on a Japanese folk tale of a love affair between a fugitive prince and a racoon who takes human form (played by Zhang), and it is told in lavish, stylised strokes. There are stage sets, corny comic skits and computer-animated scenes that look like traditional paintings come to life. Oh, and it's a musical, with song-and-dance numbers ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan-style operetta to rap and reggae. Princess Racoon is not the sort of film you could wholeheartedly recommend to non-Suzuki fans, to be honest. Even his most ardent admirers will have to give him more latitude than usual, but it recaptures the celebratory spirit that marked out his earlier films - albeit with fewer gunfights and more shape-shifting woodland fauna.

Suzuki himself admits the film is a bit of an indulgence. He originally wanted to shoot it 20 years ago, but has only recently found himself in a position to do it. "It's a bit like doing a new version of Snow White for Japanese viewers," he says.

And Zhang Ziyi? "I didn't know who she was," says Suzuki, with the honesty only an octogenarian maverick can really afford. "And I was surprised to find out she was an action star. Basically, I was looking for the most beautiful actress in Japan, who could sing and dance at the same time. There were some people I was thinking of, but they were not available. My producer happened to know Zhang, and talked about her. He convinced me eventually." Knowing no Japanese, Zhang dutifully learned her songs phonetically. "I think she did as well as a foreigner can," he says.

Apart from a spot of acting, Suzuki says he has no plans to make another film. "I'm not really in perfect condition at the moment," he laughs, pointing to his oxygen cylinder. "Making films is all about vitality. You have to be very healthy and at the moment my health is not good."

Suzuki expresses surprise at the regard with which he is now held by the younger film-making generation. When Jim Jarmusch met him a few years after paying homage to him in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, he described him as "amazing" and likened him to a Japanese Sam Fuller, but the respect hardly seems to have been mutual. "I told him I liked his film, but I said it wasn't really good for a character to die on the street," says Suzuki. "For us Japanese, the place of death is very important, but what could I do? This is American culture."

He's equally at a loss to explain what made his 1960s films so different in the first place. Having seen active service during the second world war, and lived through a period of such seismic change, his frames of reference are impossible to fathom today. He is well aware of the artistic traditions he has borrowed from and operated within, but he is reluctant to explain his methods in terms of any guiding philosophy or intellectual framework. The closest he comes to explaining himself is to state: "It is my responsibility to entertain the audience."

"I was never rebellious," he says of his past. "I was just mischievous!"
“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” - Andy Warhol


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SiliasRuby

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Re: Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2009, 06:49:45 PM »
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'Branded to kill' was really fun to watch, plenty of violence, nonsensicle wildness and strange editing that kept me captivated throughout. This was only my second suzuki film but I'm really getting into him and there's alot more of his stuff to be explored. I just saw it today and I completely followed the somewhat weird story. It really had everything I've ever wanted in a film and yet I'm yearning for more. So, I'll be definitely picking up 'branded to kill' on dvd as well as his others asap.

The other one that I saw of was 'youth of the beast' but I haven't viewed that film in some time so I would like to revisit it.

So, yeah, I love my sex drugs and violins in my movies.
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SiliasRuby

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Re: Seijun Suzuki
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2009, 08:27:36 PM »
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I just saw 'tokyo drifter' and thought it was brilliant. Just as good as 'Branded to kill' and it has color sequences that are really spectacular and although the plot is fairly simple, the characters and the cinematography is stunning. Some scenes just make me sigh on how beautiful film really can be. I think he's surpassing what kurasawa when it comes to what I enjoy more. On the other hand I still have plenty kurasawa to see. But I'm officially hooked on this guy.
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