director Seijun Suzuki
What can I tell you about Seijun Suzuki and Tokyo Drifter that you don’t already know? I suppose that depends on who you are and what you know.
Seijun Suzuki is in a kind of class by himself. I can’t really think of anyone remotely like him, though his work verges into areas like surrealism and uber-stylized action. Still, working almost exclusively in the yakuza gangster film, he veered away from conventions while actively flouting and flaunting those conventions.
The most typical cases in point are Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill (1967) because these were two of his final films as a director at Nikkatsu Studios, the ultimates in stylized genre movies that became less and less about the story that was being depicted and more and more abstracted and strange. Both films are the exemplars of his sort of wacky approach that got him canned and made him a legend.
I think I prefer Tokyo Drifter but I’m not sure. Suzuki pulls from a lot of varied things to put together this particular film. In fact, it’s got so much going on in it, it’s kind of hard to discuss in brief. Any one scene may feature sequences of abstraction or strange artifice, jump cuts, genre jumps. It’s most like perhaps some of Jean-Luc Godard’s early work but with a lot more emphasis on style and less on pure audience awareness.
Style Suzuki has in spades. In fact, he uses style like he has it in spades. Abstracted into weirdness.
So what can I tell you?