Thursday, June 11, 2015

Branded to Kill (1967)

After unleashing the psychedelic, technicolor, yakuza film Tokyo Drifter upon an unsuspecting public and studio, director Seijun Suzuki was warned to play it safe on his next film. They even forced him to shoot black and white in hopes that this might curtail some of his wilder impulses. Under pressure like this, most filmmakers would go out of their way to toe the company line and make their next film as generic as possible. Seijun Suzuki is not like most filmmakers. Suzuki instead turned his awkward situations into a psycho-sexual allegory the likes of which nobody had seen. Sure this film might seem tame in comparison to the current output of filmmakers like Takashi Miike, but you have to remember that nobody was doing stuff like this in 1967. A film about a hitman who gets off on the smell of boiling rice? A film about a hitman undergoing a complete psychological breakdown from the pressure of being hunted by another hitman as punishment for botching a job? Of course Suzuki was promptly fired and blacklisted from the Japanese film industry for a decade. But he survived and has made 11 films since. One of them was a gender-swapped remake of Branded to Kill titled Pistol Opera which he directed at the age of 80. The true rebel spirit never dies.

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