Friday, August 11, 2006

Kanto Wanderer

1963, Japan, directed by Suzuki Seijun

As Tom Mes writes in the DVD liner notes to Kanto Wanderer, this isn't as balls-to-the-wall as some of Seijun Suzuki's later work, but it's a great primer on his subversive experiments within the studio system, experiments that would eventually get him fired from Nikkatsu studios. The core of the film is a pretty conventional story of honor and loyalty among thieves, or more precisely the yakuza. Even as Suzuki throws in some reflection on the changing role of the yakuza in post-war Japanese society, there's no doubt he contributes to the romanticization of the old gangster ways, sympathizing with the old warrior types as they deal with the rise of the oafishly criminal new generation. Suzuki is really more interested, though, in playing with genre form: his lovely widescreen camerawork and brilliant use of interior spaces - most especially in the anti-climactic climax - are the beginnings of a path of consistently playful experimentation. The picture of 1960's Japan, on the cusp of a serious boom, is fascinating; the struggle to retain some of the good of the past, even in the gangster context, is sometimes surprisingly poignant.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States