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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Branded to Kill (1967) d. Seijun Suzuki

Annu Mari as Misako Nakajo in Branded to Kill (1967)l d. Siejun Suzuki

Movie Review
Branded to Kill (1967)
d. Seijun Suzuki
Criterion Collection #38

  It's clear six movies in that one of the primary purposes of the Criterion Collection is to canonize films that are, at time of publication, outside the canon of generally recognized classics.  This is a well established tactic of the marketing of cultural products, whether it be anthologies with critical notes or reissues of out of print records, the resuscitation of a product that has either a minimal market or is currently unavailable in the the market is always attractive because the acquisition costs are low relative to the production of a new art product in the same format.

Annu Mari as Misako Nakajo in Branded to Kill (1967)l d. Siejun Suzuki

  It makes sense that so many of the Criterion Collection films are either foreign or from "B-Movie" genres, because these are the films that are most often going to be ignored by the American critical/popular Audience for movies.  One characteristic foreign and b-movies have in common is less-then-perfect distribution, including, frequently,  lags of years between production and distribution.  If an art product is produced in year 1, and not shown to any Audience until year 3, there is less of a chance of the work connecting with that initial Audience.
Joe Shishido as Goro Hanada, #3 hitman in Japan.

 But one of the things I've learned already is that I've actually seen many/most of the Criterion Collection films already:  Grand Illusion, Seven Samurai, The Lady Vanishes, 400 Blows, The Killer, Hard Boiled, Spinal Tap, Silence of the Lambs, Sid and Nancy, Dead Ringers, Robocop,Alphaville, M, Nanook of the North, Time Bandits, Armageddon, Fishing With John (TV Show.)   That takes me up to this movie, Branded To Kill, Criterion Collection #38.
Annu Mari as Misako Nakajo in Branded to Kill (1967)l d. Siejun Suzuki

  Anyone can see from that very partial list that there are a bunch of films that are hardly traditional classics: two John Woo movies, Spinal Tap, Silence of the Lambs, Sid and Nancy, Dead Ringers, Time Bandits- and... AND- Armageddon- directed by Michael Bay- in the first 50 titles.  Clearly what we're dealing with here is what the Criterion Collection could get the rights for.

Koji Nanbara as Number One Killer: Best role ever???

 That set, Branded to Kill, directed by Seijun Suzuki is a solid Criterion Collection gem, one of two Seijun Suzuki films that appear back-to-back 38-39 in the Criterion Collection.  Seijun Suzuki is known as a great rebel of Japanese cinema and kind of seems like the Japanese equivalent of the New Wave bad boys of French Film or more recent Auteurs like Quentin Tarantino or perhaps even Eli Roth.  Suzuki is so well known that I think it's warranted to quote the Criterion Collection biography of Seijun Suzuki itself:

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.

  Accurate description. One of the most interesting aspects of Suzuki, besides the cinematography of this purportedly "B" movies, is their status AS B-Movies.  Film makers are almost always working as employees of a film producing company, and this can lead to artistic disputes and outre behavior on the part of the Artists.  For example, Suzuki was famously fired after Branded to Kill came out because the movie "made no sense."  That is pretty epic.

  Watching Branded to Kill is a sequence of "gee whiz" moments as you recognize the enormous influence that Suzuki has had on a generation of Hollywood directors.  As it turns out I've already seen Tokyo Drifters, but I would also write an amazing review of that film as well, if asked.

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