Seijun Suzuki Centennial Trailer

Seijun Suzuki’s Satan’s Town (1956)

May 24 will mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Seijun Suzuki, one of cinema’s most exhilarating stylists. From February 3 through 11, Japan Society and the Japan Foundation will celebrate with Seijun Suzuki Centennial, a series guest-curated by William Carroll, the author of Suzuki Seijun and Postwar Japanese Cinema. The selection of six films—all of them screening from 35 mm prints imported directly from Japan—showcases Suzuki’s early work for Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan; two titles from 1966, when Suzuki’s approach to narrative had become so radically innovative that it eventually got him fired; and two gorgeously mounted independent productions. We’re thrilled to premiere the trailer for the series.

A crime boss sprung from prison attempts to pull off a heist with an almost laughably unreliable team in Satan’s Town (1956), a film that has drawn comparisons to Raoul Walsh’s White Heat (1949). The early feature will screen with the forty-minute melodrama Love Letter (1959), which Manohla Dargis has called a “heartfelt, Sirk-like bauble frothing with style.” Love Letter “showed a director beginning to strain against genre convention; four years later that strain had turned into a full-scale revolt.”

In Carmen from Kawachi (1966), an adaptation of a Toko Kon novel inspired by George Bizet’s opera, Yumiko Nogawa plays a young woman who flees her miserable life in the countryside to Osaka, where she’ll take just about any job with a faint promise of a brighter future. By this point, Suzuki’s signature style was in full bloom. “Rather than place himself in obeisant service to rote, prosaic plotlines,” wrote Nick Pinkerton for Artforum in 2015, “Suzuki instead approached his works as exercises in uncommon visual expression. His cinematography—usually widescreen, and the work of frequent coconspirators Shigeyoshi Mine and Kazue Nagatsuka—favors slashing diagonals, vertical tracking movements that pass through the walls of diorama-like sets, and startling God’s-eye-view perspectives.”

One of Suzuki’s best-known works, the flamboyant yakuza film Tokyo Drifter (1966), is “a wonderfully buoyant Japanese discotheque time capsule crammed with a swatch, lock, or secretion of just about every brand of mod culture happening in 1966, from James Bond and Andy Warhol to Made in U.S.A and Blow-Up,” writes Howard Hampton. Tokyo Drifter “took pop art’s sly appetite for pastiche and appro­pri­ation and spun it into a cool web of subliminal associations, a flabbergasting assemblage of tough-guy kitsch, poetry, and self-mockery.”

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