Monday, November 09, 2015

THE SLEEPING BEAST WITHIN (1960) - Seijun Suzuki


The Lincoln Center Film Society program billed this pulpy Father May Not Know Best crime story a "proto-Breaking Bad." That may be a bit of an overstatement, but, hey, with a director as criminally underappreciated as Suzuki, can you blame them for invoking Walter White to get some asses into seats?

Hiroyuki Nagato from O-Line again plays a reporter (much nicer, more principled this time) tasked by the daughter of a traveling businessman to help her find her father when he disappears soon after arriving from an overseas trip. As it so happens, Dad's fallen in with a heroin smuggling racket while away and is now indebted to assist them with their transportation operations. Like BB's Walter White, he started out a mild-mannered salary man who had enough of the quiet, desperate middle class life and decided to "go out with a bang" for his retirement. Unlike BB's Heisenberg, he does end up showing a shred of remorse for these decisions. He may not start his own Blue Meth empire exactly, but he does go out with a bang. Or at least in a sizable house fire.

This is another of Suzuki's more straightforward efforts, though there's some handy-dandy experimentation with flashback super-impositions framed in the corners when a character is relating a story. It's sort of a classier riff on the everyday split-screen. Of the four Year 1960 Suzuki's I've seen (he made five that year according to Wikipedia), this may be my favorite of the bunch.

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