Archive for Seijun Suzuki

Whacked

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2013 by dcairns

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Seijun Suzuki’s penultimate film PISTOL OPERA (quick — double-bill it with Tsukamoto’s BULLET BALLET!) is a perfect late film since it recapitulates elements from his past work, being a quasi-sequel to the sick and twisted and beautiful BRANDED TO KILL. Really, all it steals is the idea of an assassin’s guild where the nicknamed killers are ranked by number and take to bumping each other off to score the top spot.

(It’s even more perfect that Suzuki bowed out not with a yakuza-action-art-film, but with the purely uncategorizable left-field amazeballs of PRINCESS RACCOON, a mythological musical.)

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The plot is impossible for this humble roundeye to follow, but it isn’t just a succession of stunning, colour-coordinated images, dynamically orchestrated, though it certainly is that too. The script keeps throwing up silly/beautiful ideas like the hitman whose trademark is to shoot you through the base of the skull, thus hitting your medulla oblongata and leaving a corpse with a smile. You can defeat this guy by lying flat on the ground, since his professional pride won’t allow him to kill you any other way. (And he’s played by cool dude Masatoshi Nagase from MYSTERY TRAIN, a Japanese TV star in the show Mike Yokohama, Private Eye.)

“I don’t know what’s going on but I’m loving it,” said Fiona. And then became smitten with co-star Sayoko Yamaguchi, a fashion model who spends much of the film veiled (a typically perverse move for this movie). I’m more keen on “Stray Cat,” played by Makiko Esumi (MABOROSI), whose willowy length and graceful movement are explicable by her past as a successful volleyball player. But everybody and everything in this movie is seriously cool. It’s possible a more coherent narrative would make it seem banal, since it certainly doesn’t aim at depth. I’m reminded of the fact that the precise moment when BRANDED TO KILL transcends its comic book aesthetic of “Godard and Leone team up to make a yakuza flick” is the moment when I always get confused as to who is who and who’s doing what to whom.

vlcsnap-2013-12-04-23h45m35s21“Mister Baby” himself, Masatoshi Nagase.

vlcsnap-2013-12-04-23h50m48s85Mexican-Japanese stand-off.

vlcsnap-2013-12-04-23h50m10s238I am helpless to explain the eyeball.

vlcsnap-2013-12-04-23h45m52s216High strangeness in a very ordinary industrial estate.

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Snowy River

Posted in FILM with tags , , on December 19, 2012 by dcairns

Seijun Suzuki’s swan song, PRINCESS RACCOON is likely to boggle you. Even if, like me, you enjoy being boggled, you may still find it boggles you TOO MUCH. There is, perhaps, a limit to the bogglery a person can endure in a single evening. But this is an incredibly beautiful film, a deeply unusual one — more readable and less startling to Japanese viewers, no doubt, but still intentionally quirky as heck — and a very sweet way for Suzuki, whose celebrated yakuza pulps aren’t typically all that sweet, to shuffle off.

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Somehow, it makes the most perfect sense possible that Suzuki should end his career with a musical, though.

It’s also very Christmassy, or wintery anyhow. And since December has begun, that is officially O-kay!

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12 Angry Films

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by dcairns

There’s a mutating meme coursing across the interweb — bloggers challenging each other to name twelve films they haven’t seen. The task varies from blog to blog, sometimes amounting to a confession of what well-known or important movies the author hasn’t caught up with, sometimes tending towards a list of extreme rarities that nobody can find.

I think both lists have value. Maybe somebody out there will be able to help me out with the films I want to get my mitts on. And maybe naming the films I haven’t seen will shame me into watching them. I also like the Self-Styled Siren’s approach, which involves listing twelve films in her collection which she hasn’t gotten around to running yet (including LA FIN DU JOUR!).

So my first list will be twelve rare films that I went to considerable effort to get, then didn’t watch.

1. THE POWER AND THE GLORY. An early Preston Sturges screenplay. Looked for this for AGES, finally got it a couple months ago. Haven’t even peeked at it. What a maroon!

2. Early Hitchcock. I’ve seen most of the thrillers, but odd things like RICH AND STRANGE are sitting neglected. Nice quality, from the recent box set of early Hitch… I’m contemplating spending a whole week running all the Hitch I haven’t seen. Yep, I’m CONTEMPLATING it…

3. Murnau’s TARTUFFE. Bought the Kino edition from America. I keep putting it on, then getting distracted. It may not be major Murnau, but it certainly has inspired bits (I love the style of the modern framing story more than the actual Moliere adaptation), and if I watched it properly who knows what I’d get out of it?

4. Michael Powell’s quota quickies. A fascinating glimpse into the creative process: watch Powell slowly spread his wings and try things out and gain confidence, on threadbare budgets and schedules so brief the Kleig lights barely have time to warm up. I have a number of these, all more or less unwatched. Let CROWN VS STEVENS stand for them all.

5. UN REVENANT. A fog-bound Parisian gangster film in the poetic realist vein, directed by Christian-Jaque and starring the mighty Louis Jouvet. I paid good money for a fine copy of this. So why haven’t I watched it, two years later? BECAUSE I AM AN ARSE.

6. Resnais’s MURIEL. Got very excited about seeing this, bought it, watched ten minutes, was intrigued, got interrupted, never went back. I’m dreadful. A failure as a man, and as an assemblage of molecules.

7. LES ORGEILLEUX. Gerard Philipe gives an astonishing performance (I peeked) in Yves Allegret and Rafael E Portas’ sensational drama. An unusually articulate IMDb reviewer calls it “one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen”. It may be one of the greatest films I haven’t seen. How would I know?

8. THE HUMAN CONDITION. Masaki Kobayashi’s nine-hour three-film extravaganza, released by Criterion but now out of print. Miraculously got a copy via Mark Cousins, then failed to watch it. Kobayashi is one Fiona’s very favourite filmmakers, but I think the phrase “nine hours” is putting her off.

9. MARILYN. Wolf Rilla (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) directs this British B-movie answer to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Got a surprise TV airing this year, I recorded it. Then kind of set it to one side. We met Wolf Rilla’s son once, Nico Rilla. He recommended a Rilla movie with a terrific title: THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER.

10. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS. Perfectly nice pre-record boxed DVD of this lying on the living room floor amid a heap. And yes, I know Scorsese directed part of it, I know the story behind his firing, and I was able to use that information to work out which bits he directed. And I’ve watched those bits. But I need to watch the whole thing!

11. LE TROU. I have this Jacques Becker crime yarn in a beautiful Criterion Collection edition, (and TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI too). I loan it to people. They watch it. I don’t. And yet I liked CASQUE D’OR quite a bit.

12. UNDERWORLD BEAUTY. I do like a Seijun Suzuki yakuza flick. I’ve watched BRANDED TO KILL numerous times (I still get utterly confused). And yet this one remains unwatched. I am an idiot!

Of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface…