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UCLA Film & Television Archive; the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution; Japan Foundation; and UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies present

Action, Anarchy and Audacity: A Seijun Suzuki Retrospective

Branded to Kill
February 5, 2016 -
March 13, 2016

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.

Past Programs & Events

Title Date and Time Location
Princess Raccoon

Princess Raccoon

Sunday, March 13, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Capone Cries a Lot

Capone Cries a Lot

Sunday, March 13, 2016 - 3:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater


Saturday, March 12, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater


Monday, March 7, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater


Sunday, March 6, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Smashing the O-Line

The Sleeping Beast Within  /  Smashing the O-Line

Saturday, February 27, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Passport to Darkness

Passport to Darkness  /  Eight Hours of Fear

Monday, February 22, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Pistol Opera

Pistol Opera  /  A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness

Sunday, February 21, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Carmen from Kawachi

Tattooed Life  /  Carmen from Kawachi

Saturday, February 13, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Story of a Prostitute

Gate of Flesh  /  Story of a Prostitute

Friday, February 12, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
The Call of Blood

Kanto Wanderer  /  The Call of Blood

Monday, February 8, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Fighting Elegy

Tokyo Drifter  /  Fighting Elegy

Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Branded to Kill

Branded to Kill  /  Youth of the Beast

Friday, February 5, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater