Wednesday, September 24, 2014

& YOUTH OF THE BEAST (1963) - Seijun Suzuki

According to Wikipedia, the clumsily named yakuza-cop programmer Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards! is one of a handful of Seijun Suzuki's movies with the word "bastard" in its title. This is probably the only one of those bastards I'll ever see, unless someone's got handy YouTube links to The Bastard and Stories of Bastards that I've overlooked (if so, please send!). This is the earliest Jo Shishido-Suzuki pairing I'm likely to find, unless someone's got tracks on Voices Without A Shadow, their actual first collaboration (again, please send if so!). That fact alone made it worthwhile late night viewing, even if the flick itself was a bit "chaste" by Suzuki standards.

Shishido plays a freelance detective who goes undercover for the police as a yakuza to try to get information on warring rival bosses. Light intrigue ensues. There's some amusing business with yakuza clans fumbling over each over to kill an informant who's just been released from prison. Better still, a Joe Shishido song and dance number!

Apart from the soft shoe, you might be better served sticking to Youth of the Beast, their later collaboration the same year. The plot is nearly identical (Shishido's a disgraced ex-cop going undercover among warring clans to unravel a friend's murder), but this is the first Suzuki where he really starts to upturn the crime genre, hit his stride style-wise. The color palettes and compositions get bolder.Jo gets to be a REAL BASTARD this time, indiscriminately beating up 'hoods, bedding chorus girls, casually setting his boss' crewcut on fire. Watched back to back, you get the feeling Suzuki went: "Didn't I just make this same movie three months ago? Fuck it...I'm going to mix things up."

Bastards is a serviceable primer, but Beast is the real deal. Its devil-may-care swagger hints at, perhaps, the finest Suzuki to come a few years later. Its name? Branded to Kill.

No comments: