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AFS Presents: A TALE OF SORROW AND SADNESS
November 18, 2015 @ 8:30 pm
DIRECTED BY SEIJUN SUZUKI
Japan, 1977, 35mm, 93 min, In Japanese with English Subtitles
Seijun Suzuki is a towering giant of world cinema, a master of action and crime films with few rivals. He is also a rule-breaker who was fired by his studio for consistently injecting surrealism and dark humor into his films. His employer, Nikkatsu Films, was interested in making low to medium budget gangster movies that they could keep in a consistent rotation through mainstream movie houses in Japan. Suzuki, whose experiences as a soldier in the war had instilled in him a deep sense of irony and resistance to authority, continually added weirder and weirder stylistic elements to his films, much to the displeasure of the studio. The breaking point was 1966’s BRANDED TO KILL (screening in November). Suzuki’s masterful tale of a disillusioned hit-man, addicted to the smell of cooking rice, who has a surreal run-in with a mystical butterfly woman was a bridge too far for Nikkatsu, who finally gave him his walking papers only to see the film become a hit with the new generation of Japanese young people. It did nothing to save his career though, which seemed to be at an end. He worked only in fits and starts until 1977, when he returned to full-time production:
“Nearly a decade after being fired by Nikkatsu Studios, Suzuki returned to the director’s chair with this titillating tale of a model who is groomed to become a professional golfer as a publicity stunt. When she turns out to be good at the sport, her success leads a deranged fan to hatch a blackmail scheme.” (Tom Vick)
“Full of mismatched shots, off-kilter editing, staging right out of a Robert Wilson opera, sudden zooms that race from wide shots to leering close-ups, Suzuki’s film feels like a wildlife documentary charting the slow degradation of the human soul isolated in suburbia and fed a steady diet of advertising.” (Grady Hendrix, Film Comment)
Print courtesy of the Japan Foundation.
Photo courtesy of Nikkatsu