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Now in our sixth calendar year
PCR #270  (Vol. 6, No. 21)  This edition is for the week of May 23--29, 2005.

A Truly Magic Moment
 by William Moriaty
Summer's Here!
 by Mike Smith
Remakes and Sequels....There is Only One George A. Romero
 by Drew Reiber
Seijun Suzuki-A-Go-Go
 by Peter Card
The Force Wasn't With Them....JawsFest On The Horizon....Monster Bash Also Looming
 by Matt Drinnenberg
From Last Week....Bad Hair Day....Who Are You?....Passing On....Jaws: The Story, Part 20
 by Mike Smith
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Asian Film Update by Peter Card

Seijun Suzuki-A-Go-Go
This weekís edition of Asian Film Update is best described as Seijun Suzuki-a-go-go. The man with the plan from Japan has been entertaining audiences for nearly 50 years. It was in the early 1960s when Seijun Suzuki caught the eye and imagination of his audience by making films that are often lumped into the category of the Japanese New Wave. Suzuki tried his best to entertain his audience rather than simply following his studioís (Nikkatsu) orders. Suzukiís and his contemporaries films strike comparisons to the French New Wave although Suzuki insists that the films of this period were filled with ideas and images meant to entertain rather than break new ground or create a new cinematic language.

Regardless of his intentions, Suzukiís body of work is immense and fortunately many films of his are now available on DVD in the US. Itís surprising to note that his filmography is one of the most available in the United States besides Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Fukasaku. Home Vision Entertainment released 3 of his films, Underworld Beauty (1958), Kanto Wanderer (1963), Tattooed Life (1965). It is interesting to note that Underworld Beauty is pre-Suzuki madness and that this film is a solid and entertaining film. I applaud HVe for releasing this since most fans of Suzuki expect explosions of color and narrative confusion. Those who seek only this form of entertainment will be disinterested in this early film although I find it to be a useful example of his first era of films. Kanto Wanderer is perhaps Suzukiís first in the long line of many films that contain an aesthetic that Iíd argue many Anime directors lifted. Its especially interesting to note that he even worked in the early eighties on the massively popular television show, Lupin the Third. Finally, Tattooed Life is a great example of the contrast between the seemingly conventional aspects of a Suzuki film and his most outlandish moments. The strong story and gripping finale is a perfect introduction into the world of Suzuki.

The Criterion Collection is the real home of Suzukiís films. Thankfully the distributor that knows how to treat movies right is no stranger to his body of work. Criterion has released four of his films and the month of July sees the release of two more. In the early days of Criterion they introduced two little known films by an unheard of director into their collection (spine numbers 38 & 39). These films were Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill. These two films have become the most known in his filmography and its easy to see why. Both films lack any focus on its story and incessantly push the envelope visually and stylistically. Think of the stunt Soderbergh pulled with Oceanís Twelve and youíll get an idea of what Suzuki was doing. Unfortunately, he paid with his job and found it extremely difficult to find work for many years. Suzuki had many new wave contemporaries who were also entertaining their audience while enraging their studios but Suzuki was picked to be the example. Since Kurosawa and Suzuki both fell upon hard times in the cinema at about the same time, I often picture them running off to Sake Bars together and brainstorming up movies audiences werenít prepared for. Unfortunately neither Kurosawa nor Suzuki made any where near as many films as they did up to the 1960s.

Suzuki did however make a trilogy of films often referred to as the ďGhost Trilogy.Ē These films are Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kageroza (1981), and Yumeji (1991). As of yet none of these films have been translated to English, but they are highly respected by Suzuki aficionados. Strangely enough, Wong Kar-Wai actually used the theme to Yumeji in his film In the Mood for Love (2001) although Iíll save Kar-Wai for another week. Believe it or not, this weekís column is actually going somewhere because Iíve been cleverly leading up to Suzukiís latest films. In 2001, Suzuki made what I consider to be his masterpiece, Pistol Opera. I donít have the mental or physical strength to try and summarize the power of this filmís images, themes, and messages. This film sits somewhere off on a cloud far away from most any other film. This film is its own experience and should maybe be viewed after tackling his earlier films. As I mentioned earlier, Suzuki may have been entertaining his audience in the 1960s but in 2001 Suzuki is playing with more than lights and colors. Suzuki has placed meaning into his images that may not have been intended in his previous films. This film is an extremely precise calculation; it immediately dispenses with our expectations of a narrative through story and action and instead creates a narrative composed entirely of set pieces and symbols that only a master could achieve. Media Blasters has been simply divine by deciding to release Pistol Opera and in its OAR 1.33:1. Speaking of which, you will not believe what he manages with this aspect ratio.

Suzukiís newest film Tanuki Goten (2005) just played at Cannes and I havenít heard a critic peep yet. I did however find a 7-minute clip of the film and needless to say, it was intense. It seemed that Suzuki had maintained the style of Pistol Opera but may be trying something a little more conventional in the filmís narrative. My only wish is that it arrives on these shores and in the Florida area. This could be his swan song and I certainly do not want to miss it. In closing, I like all of the films Suzuki has done that are available here so you canít go wrong with picking up or renting one tonight.

Cya next week!

"Asian Film Update" is ©2005 by Peter Card.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.