Read the Wall Street Journal review of this film series.
“To experience a film by Japanese B-movie visionary Seijun Suzuki is to experience Japanese cinema in all its frenzied, voluptuous excess.” —Manohla Dargis
In a career spanning nearly five decades, director Seijun Suzuki amassed a body of work ranging from B-movie potboilers to beguiling metaphysical mysteries. Suzuki first 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.” But it was his freewheeling approach and audacious experimentation in films such as Branded to Kill (1967) and Tokyo Drifter (1966) that gained Suzuki a cult following in Japan and abroad. In the mid-1960s, with dozens of B-movie assignments under his belt, Suzuki channeled his restlessness—and that of his regular collaborators, art director Takeo Kimura and cinematographers Shigeyoshi Mine and Kazue Nagatsuka—towards injecting deliriously disruptive stylistic innovations into studio assigned stories of battling yakuza, corrupt cops and wild youth. In the 1980s, after an extended period of limited production, Suzuki reinvented himself again as an independent filmmaker. Freed from the commercial obligations of studio work, he indulged his passion for the Taisho Era (1912–26) in a trio of films—Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kagero-za (1981) and Yumeji (1991)—which reflect the period’s hedonistic cultural atmosphere, blend of Eastern and Western art and fashion and political extremes through Suzuki’s own eccentric vision of the time. In the 1990s, a traveling international retrospective brought Suzuki a new generation of devotees—most notably directors Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino—who praised Suzuki in the press and quoted his work in their films. Perhaps inspired by this newfound attention, Suzuki returned to filmmaking in the 2000s after another decade-long absence, making two films—Pistol Opera (2001) and Princess Raccoon (2005)—that look back on his career while advancing it with new technology. On the occasion of the publication of Time and Place are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki by Tom Vick, UCLA Film & Television Archive is pleased to present a touring retrospective of Suzuki’s films.
Note: Series curated by Tom Vick, curator of film, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, and co-organized with the Japan Foundation. Program notes adapted from notes by Tom Vick.
Additional funding provided, in part, by The Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities.
Special thanks: Torquil Duthie; Michael Emmerich; Seiji Lippit—UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies; Hideki Hara, director—Japan Foundation, Los Angeles.