Seijun Suzuki

"Suzuki churned out production-line crime films and erotic melodramas for Nikkatsu Studios for years, until success, confidence and boredom led him to play with the generic rules… Suzuki's best work succeeds both as inventive parody and as thrilling entertainment." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)

Seijun Suzuki

Director
(1923-2017) Born May 24, Tokyo, Japan

Key Production Country: Japan
Key Genres: Drama, Crime, Crime Thriller, Erotic Drama, Gangster Film, Crime Drama, Psychological Drama
Key Collaborators: Akira Suzuki (Editor), Takeo Kimura (Production Designer), Isao Tamagawa (Leading Character Actor), Jo Shishido (Leading Actor), Shigeyoshi Mine (Cinematographer), Kazue Nagatsuka (Cinematographer), Naozumi Yamamoto (Composer), Yoshio Harada (Leading Actor), Shinsuke Ashida (Leading Character Actor), Tamio Kawachi (Leading Character Actor), Kayo Matsuo (Leading Character Actress), Hideaki Esumi (Character Actor)

"A brilliant nonconformist, Seijun Suzuki was a B-movie director at the Nikkatsu Studio in the late 1950s and 60s whose work became increasingly abstract. Assigned lurid pulp melodramas and yakuza thrillers, Suzuki mixed up deliriously tacky rhapsodies of colour, design and sound with absurdist gags and choreographed action scenes, then scrambled this highly artificial mise en scène through surreal editing patterns. In 1967 he was fired by Nikkatsu for his 'incomprehensible' work, and didn't make another feature for ten years… Suzuki remains one of cinema's most cherished anomalies, an experimentalist and subversive who worked on the film factory production line." - Tom Charity (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)
"Stylish director who broke boundaries in Japanese genre films. In the 1950s he became a contract director for the then-downtrodden genre-driven Nikkatsu Studios. There, he defined each of his assignments, be they yakuza (gangster), soft-core porno, or other genre type, with strong visuals and outlandish narratives that reflected his perceived tension between mu (nothingness) and keren (artifice)." - The Film Encyclopedia, 2012
"Suzuki achieved international fame belatedly, a quarter century after the visual flamboyance of his gangster pictures and his dismissal by a studio outraged by the liberties he took with generic material won him a cult reputation among students in Japan." - Alexander Jacoby (A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors, 2008)
"Essentially B-pictures, films such as Yaju no seishun (1963) (The Brute) and the historically set Irezumi ichidai (1965) (Tattooed Life) marked the director out as a Japanese Sam Fuller - someone who works within popular genres but still manages to bring his vast imagination to bear on projects, often taking them in unexpected directions… It was only in the 1990s that a new generation of young Japanese critics and directors began to be influenced by his pop art sensibilities." - Andy Willis (501 Movie Directors, 2007)
"According to critic Manohla Dargis, “To experience a film by Japanese B-movie visionary Seijun Suzuki is to experience Japanese cinema in all its frenzied, voluptuous excess.” Suzuki played chaos like jazz in his movies, from the anything-goes yakuza thrillers Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill to the daring postwar dramas of human frailty Gate of Flesh and Story of a Prostitute to the twisted coming-of-age story Fighting Elegy; he never concerned himself with moderation, cramming boundless invention into his beautifully composed frames, both color and black-and-white." - The Criterion Collection
"Suzuki brought an almost kabuki-esque theatricality to the pulp fodder he was assigned, through an expressive use of colour, baroque set designs, off-kilter compositions and jarring edits. His style became increasingly extravagant with the gangster movie Youth of the Beast (1963), which features a scene shot from beneath a glass floor, an exploding car enveloped in gaudy pink fog, and a sandstorm raging incongruously outside the window of a drug-addicted prostitute as she is punished by her pimp." - Jasper Sharp (The Guardian, 2017)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Tokyo Drifter (1966)
Recommended
Underworld Beauty (1958), Youth of the Beast (1963), Branded to Kill (1967) ✖︎, Pistol Opera (2001)
Worth a Look
Take Aim at the Police Van (1960), Everything Goes Wrong (1960), Kanto Wanderer (1963), Gate of Flesh (1964), Tattooed Life (1965), Fighting Elegy (1966), A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness (1977), Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kagerô-za (1981), Princess Raccoon (2005)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films Jonathan Rosenbaum
Seijun Suzuki / Favourite Films
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Frank Capra, The Blue Angel (1930) Josef von Sternberg, Congress Dances (1931) Erik Charell, Daibosatsu tôge: dai-ippen - Kôgen itto-ryû no maki (1935) Hiroshi Inagaki, Daibosatsu tôge: Suzuka-yama no maki - Mibu Shimabara no maki (1936) Hiroshi Inagaki, Pépé le Moko (1937) Julien Duvivier, Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock, The Red Shoes (1948) Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, Singin' in the Rain (1952) Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, Stagecoach (1939) John Ford, The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed.
Source: Sight & Sound (1992)
    Tokyo Drifter
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