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Suzuki Seijun From a maverick maker of B-movies to a master of aesthetic film.

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Presentation on theme: "Suzuki Seijun From a maverick maker of B-movies to a master of aesthetic film."— Presentation transcript:

1 Suzuki Seijun From a maverick maker of B-movies to a master of aesthetic film

2 Suzuki Seijun’s Career Born in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, into a wealthy merchant family in 1923. Maverick filmmaker Greatest maker of B-movies Japano-trash which greatly influenced international filmmakers such as Jim Jarmush, Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, Kitano Takeshi

3 Suzuki Seijun’s Career After being an assistant director in Shochiku (1948- 1954), Suzuki moved to Nikkatsu with Imamura Shohei when the studios reopened. His debut film Victory Is Mine (1956), a kayô film, which is built around a hit song and features the singer of the song.

4 Suzuki and Nikkatsu Studios Nikkatsu Studios’ success in genre films Youth film and Yakuza film Double features: A and B movies The demand for a large amount of films → the demand for a large number of directors Quantity rather than quality Suzuki emerged as a director of B-movies

5 Suzuki and Nikkatsu Studios B-movies - low budget, tight filming schedule, genre-bound, starring young, inexperienced actors Shooting schedule - five to six weeks Suzuki made 3 1/2 films a year without turning down the scripts given to him by the studios. Most of his films during this period were yakuza thrillers and youth ‘rite of passage’ films, and melodramas.

6 Maker of B-Movies Script, lead actors (stars or those groomed for stardom), supporting actors, crew are assigned by the studios. ¥20,000,000 budget on average (¥45,000,000 for A movies) with ¥3,000,000 extra for colour films 10 days for preproduction, 25 days for production and 3 days for post-production

7 Maker of B-Movies While turning out a large number of genre films inside extremely limited time and budget, Suzuki developed his unique story- telling techniques and visual styles. To reinvent (parody?) popular narratives = subversion of classical narratives To attempt unconventional shots = subversion of classical styles

8 Maker of B-Movies ‘The B-movie director’s biggest worry is “What effect will the main feature shown before your film have on the spectator?” Films from Nikkatsu usually have the same plot: the main character falls in love with a woman, he kills the bad guy and gets woman. This pattern is repeated in every film, so you concentrate on finding out all you can about the actors are, who the director is, and the approach this director has. This is what the B-movie director does…

9 Maker of B-Movies For instance, the main feature’s director has a habit of filming a love scene in a certain way; this means that I have to handle it in a different way. The director of the main feature has it easy. He doesn’t hat to find out how I work at all. He can just do whatever he wants. So actually a B-movie director has a harder task than his colleagues who do the main feature.’ Seijun Suzuki

10 Maker of B-Movies Narrative Structure Lone antihero (yakuza, former yakuza) Shifting and ambiguous demarcation between good and evil Non sequitur development of story Illogical and irrational actions Lack of explanation on motivation, character, and action Madcap humour

11 Maker of B-Movies Daring visual effects Flamboyant, lurid colours Hyperbolic set design Surrealistic images Striking compositions Stylized actions Visual jokes

12 Maker of B-Movies Suzuki’s first major film with high critical esteem Youth of the Beast (1963) A mysterious tough guy plays a yakuza gang against its rival. Irrational violence

13 Maker of B-Movies Suzuki’s Yakuza film Kanto Wanderer (1963) Working with the conventions of classic yakuza film - conflict between giri (duty and obligation) and ninjo (compassion and humanity), he tells a story in a unique visual style


15 Maker of B-Movies Tokyo Drifter (1966) - The reformed yakuza, ‘Phoenix’ Tetsu drifts around Japan till he is called back to Tokyo to fight against a rival gang, though he is betrayed by his former boss.








23 Maker of B-Movies Tattooed Life (1965) - involved in a feud between rival yakuza families and killing, brothers decide to escape to Manchuria but are stuck in a port town before they set off to their destination. Their past is fast catching up with them and they discover no good is coming out of sitting still and putting their roots down. They launch their final desperate battle against those who try to destroy them.





28 Maker of B-Movies Branded to Kill (1967) - a story about a contract killer who is hired to protect a femme fatale. The killer himself becomes a target of another contract killer, whose methods threaten to his sanity as well as his life.




32 Dismissal from Nikkatsu Suzuki was virtually sacked after the release of Branded to Kill. “Nikkatsu could not afford to cultivate a reputation for making films understood only by an exclusive audience. Showing incomprehensible and thus bad films would disgrace the company.” Letter given to Cine Club Suzuki’s response to the accusation: ‘Why do you need to make films everybody understand? I make films about what I don’t understand but I wish to.’

33 Dismissal from Nikkatsu Law suit Nikkatsu not only dismissed Suzuki but also withheld all his films from distribution. Breach of contract and denial of freedom of speech.

34 Dismissal from Nikkatsu Nikkatsu offered out-of-the-court settlement: compensation, a public apology and release of his major films Suzuki was blacklisted and could not make another film for the next 10 years.

35 Suzuki as an Art Film Director Zigeunerweisen (1980) - the first in his Taisho (1912-1926) trilogy and a psychological ghost story Independent production and is refused to be exhibited till it was shown and received a jury’s award in the Berlin Festival.

36 Suzuki as an Art Film Director Totally disjunctive narrative About a professor of German literature meets his former colleague who is constantly on journey. They meet, separate, and meet again, while falling in love with the same woman and are smitten with another woman.

37 Suzuki as an Art Film Director Elliptical narrative structure / Surrealistic images → represent the world in which the border between being alive and dead, reality and memory, and history and imagination is broken down.

38 Suzuki as an Art Film Director Kagero-za (1981) - a playwright’s infatuation with a mysterious woman with whom he more than once crosses paths. When he receives an invitation to a rendezvous, he begins his fateful journey.

39 Suzuki as an Art Film Director Yumeji (1991) - a film not really about the life of the painter, Takehisa Yumeji, but obsession with art and love. With usual fragmented narrative and bizarre, surrealistic images, Suzuki constructs the moody and ponderous world of Taisho period.

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