|Chipmunked cheeked actor Joe Shishedo is the Mifune to Suzuki's Kurosawa.|
Youth of the Beast (1963)
d. Seijun Suzuki
Criterion Collection #268
Japanese cinema, Seijun Suzuki, we are in the heartland of the Criterion Collection with Youth of the Beast (1963.) Youth of the Beast was off-beat director Suzuki's breakthrough film. He followed Youth of the Beast with Branded to Kill (1967) and Tokyo Drifter (1966). Those two films are his generally acknowledged twin masterpieces: anarchic gangster movies infused with the same ethos as the neo-noir of the French New Wave, and an obvious source of inspiration for contemporary directors like, oh, I don't know, Quentin Tarantino. Youth of the Beat is a direct precursor for Branded/Drifter, with many of the same stylistic flourishes that feature in those films in less extreme/more embryonic forms.
The use of be bop for action sequences, a hall mark of Suzuki, appears here, as does actor Joe Shishedo, the hero of Branded to Kill. Shishedo is to Suzuki what Toshiro Mifune is to Kurosawa: An actor whose appearances go hand in hand with any discussion of the film maker, or the films. Here, the plot is baroque in the gun-fighter double crossing two opposing sides over the course of the film with violent results. Its a plot used by directors from John Ford, to John Huston, to Akira Kurosawa, etc. Rather it's the style of Youth of the Beast that draws the eye, and considering the end results of Branded/Drifter, Youth of the Beast is worth taking seriously.