Here are two mid-career Seijun Suzuki opuses that didn’t get him in trouble, but should have—the man’s timeless disgust with formula and studio prescription radiates like desert heat from his movies, whose narratives are really just cheap suits endured on the wacky path to self-destruction. Fighting Elegy (1966) is as iconic as its title, a jumpy cartoon vision of 1930s Japanese youth culture driven into paroxysms of crazy, militaristic violence by its own sexual frustration. Often as broad as a Keystone two-reeler, the movie is virtually a mission statement by its apostatic director, and was the last Nikkatsu Studio film he made before being fired for Branded to Kill. Youth of the Beast (1963), at any rate, should’ve given the company men a hint. Another reimagining of Red Harvest, the film posits Suzuki axiom Jo Shishido as a dyspeptic, chipmunk-faced thug pitting one yakuza organization against another, but the resulting meth-cranked circus of jazzy chiaroscuro design and cartwheeling sadism has to be seen to be believed. With an essay by Howard Hampton that’s almost as much outrageous fun as the movie itself.
Also worth considering:
Heat (Warner) Michael Mann’s perfect example of Los Angeles playing itself, finally in a special edition with deleted scenes, a Mann commentary, and, of course, an analysis of the De Niro-Pacino summit.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 15, 2005