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Japan, 1963 (MIFF 2000, Seijun Suzuki – Violence & Beauty)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

The global phenomenon of James Bond is an archetypal instance of 60s audiovisual brashness. The sheer loudness and pictorial noise of the first Bond films and their ironic self-consciousness reverberated throughout world cinema, creating many a transcultural mutant in the espionage genres. Far from being an imperialist colonising trend, the theatrical excess of the Bond films presented many non-Anglo cultures with a Pop Art canvas onto which their own frenetic stylistic exercises could be splashed. Suzuki's Detective Bureau stands as a delicious Nippon Pop version. Jo Shisido—a regular star in Suzuki's cinema—plays private eye Hideo Tajima, who in a dizzying duplicitous patchwork of plot flip-flops infiltrates a yakuza gang and tears it asunder. Accompanied by his two eccentric assistants, he uncovers a secret cache of smuggled armaments and befriends the head mobster's mistress. With his cover story in jeopardy, time is running out for Tajima. Like many Japanese 60s action heroes, Shisido has been vastly underrated. While his acting by our sophisticated standards may be less than perfect, his screen presence is notable, as is his physical prowess. In contrast to American cinema, Japanese action heroes can move with great agility and precision. This aspect of their presence accounts for the balletic feel of their scenes. Suzuki has always favoured moving his action stars through roving widescreen pictorialism as a reinstatement of Kabuki's horizontal stage. He doesn't just set up his images in stilted arty fashion: he choreographs its transitions around the ways in which Shisido hurls, dives and zaps through scenes, sometimes with the aid of unlikely mechanisms. Detective Bureau 2-3 is a great place to start on the delirious road to Suzukimania.

See also...


Jojini Mizuno is a disgraced ex-cop convicted for illicit dealings. He infiltrates two competing gangs with a secret agenda, setting mobster against mobster. Like a stubborn drunkard, he crashes his ... More »


One of Suzukis most intellectual yet perplexing films. Violence Elegy could be somewhere between Porky's and Zero For Conduct. It follows the delinquent exploits of Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi) as ... More »


Possibly Suzuki's most infamous film, Branded To Kill certainly retains its searing punch after repeated viewing. Curiously, it is also his least Pop Art and quivers with a heightened otherness ... More »


The Dark Side of Pop, a series of Japanese CDs, focuses on the weird songs recorded by movie stars, ex-boxers, gangsters and freaky-nobodies from the 60s and 70s. Many of them were huge; some went ... More »


Some sequences in Story of a Prostitute are so achingly beautiful, they scar the mind. In fact, I would argue that Suzuki's most powerful films revolve around women. OK—so they re always ... More »

Architecture and Gardens of Japan

A survey of the architecture of Japan from the Shrine of Ise in mythological times, through the Heian, Muromachi and Momoyama periods, to the intimate beauty of the Edo period. ... More »

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