a career spanning nearly six decades, Suzuki Seijun amassed a body of work ranging
from B-movie yakuza thrillers to arthouse mysteries. This year's festival presents
a retrospective of Suzuki's films, ranging from his greatest hits to a selection
of seldom-seen rarities, and ends with a screening of his comeback film, A
TALE OF SORROW AND SADNESS.
Suzuki Seijun entered the Kamakura Academy
film department and later, joined Shochiku Studio in 1948. He moved to Nikkatsu
Studio in 1954 and was promoted from assistant director to full director in 1956.
Suzuki's job at Nikkatsu was to make B movies out of scripts that were assigned
to him. In the mid-1960s, with dozens such films under his belt, Suzuki's restlessness
began to come through as he and his collaborators, art director Takeo Kimura and
cinematographers Shigeyoshi Mine and Kazue Nagatsuka, began experimenting with
the assigned material. These films established Suzuki as a stylistic innovator
working within - and rebelling against - the commercial constraints of B-movie
studio work. Among his remarkable styles, Suzuki uses colours, distorted space
and time, unconnected shots, mirror reflections. In particular, Suzuki uses the
unconnected scenes, where he jumps between two unconnected scenes.
became famous when he was fired by Nikkatsu Studios in 1967 for making films that,
as he put it, "made no sense and made no money." Suzuki's masterful
tale of a disillusioned hit-man, addicted to the smell of cooking rice, who has
a surreal run-in with a mystical butterfly woman was a bridge too far for Nikkatsu,
the film would become a hit with the new generation of Japanese young people.
His freewheeling approach and audacious experimentation that gained Suzuki a cult
following in Japan and abroad. After being dismissed and blacklisted in the industry,
he didn't return to full-time production until 1977 with A TALE OF SORROW AND
Following which, in the 1980s, Suzuki reinvented himself
as an independent filmmaker. Freed from the commercial obligations of studio work,
he elected to indulge his passion for the Taisho era (1912-26), a brief period
of Japanese history that has been likened to Europe's Belle Epoque and America's
Roaring Twenties. Though not linked by plot, these three films - ZIGEUNERWEISEN,
KAGERO-ZA, and YUMEJI - embody the hedonistic cultural atmosphere,
blend of Eastern and Western art and fashion, and political extremes of the 1920s,
infused with Suzuki's own eccentric vision of the time.
In the 1990s,
a traveling retrospective brought long-overdue attention to Suzuki's films in
the United States and Europe. A new generation of devotees, most notably Jim Jarmusch
and Quentin Tarantino, praised Suzuki in the press and referenced his work in
their films - Ghost Dog and Reservoir Dogs. Perhaps inspired by this newfound
attention, Suzuki returned to filmmaking after another decade-long absence.
by Gavin Low and Masuda Atsuko, and co-organized with the Japan Foundation.