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.