Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

November 17th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

It would be more then fair to label Japanese director Seijun Suzuki as one of the most unusual studio directors in world cinema. That is, he was a director that worked the majority of his career contracted to a studio. As such he was given a wide range of films to direct with little choice in the matter. But although assigned the position primarily of B-movie director, he began to experiment in strange directions.
The majority of films he is best remembered for are his Yakuza gangster works. This is at a time when the prevailing trend was towards films portraying Yakuza in a near godlike light as fearless warriors holding up some degraded ideal of Japanese honor and martial strength. While other notable directors were tackling this trend in other ways, such as Kinji Fukasaku with his gritty tone, portraying a nightmare world of pathetic shadow individuals best showcased in his Battles Without Honor or Humanity series (1973-4), Suzuki made them into manic jokes living insane lives in an insane world and always just inches away from noticing it. It would be this tilted viewpoint that would eventually see the director blacklisted after his studio found it impossible to understand, market or support his unique style.
Decades later and Tokyo Drifter is one of his supreme accomplishments. Its story is simple enough. A gangster is forced into an action through his code of honor which leads to a kind of self imposed exile as he tours the underworld and the dysfunction that dictates his life.

Japan, Director Seijun Suzuki, Cast Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Hideaki Nitani and Tamio Kawaji, 83 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles

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