With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ACF 1027: Happy Birthday, Seijun Suzuki!

Screenshot of Seijun Suzuki being interviewed in Tokyo
for the Criterion DVD release of Story of a Prostitute
(C) The Criterion Collection 2005

Seijun Suzuki was born in Tokyo, on May 24, 1923. Though best known in the U.S. as a film director, Suzuki has also worked as a television director and has acted. In fact, he is reportedly better known in Japan these days for his roles in films and television than as a director.

After serving in the Japanese army during World War II, Suzuki worked as an assistant director at several studios. He began working at Nikkatsu Studios in 1954 and directed his first film in 1958. From then through 1966 he directed three to four films each year. After Branded to Kill (his fortieth film, released in 1967), Hori Kyusaku, president of Nikkatsu Studios at the time, fired Suzuki, claiming he made incomprehensible movies that didn't make any money. These difficulties basically arose because of Suzuki's boredom with the same B-movie genre material he was assigned. He sought new ways to make the material interesting.

Suzuki filed suit and a lengthy legal battle ensued. It was ultimately settled out of court. Although he received less compensation than he sought, Suzuki did obtain an apology from Hori. Still he went through a lengthy period during which he was blacklisted by the film studios and had to work in television. In the late '70's, he was again able to make films. His Zigeunerweisen (1980) won 17 awards and was nominated for 6 others.

For me the greatest recognition of his work is the inclusion of a great many of his films in The Criterion Collection. These include Youth of the Beast (1963), Story of a Prostitute (1965), Tokyo Drifter (1966), Branded to Kill (1967). Some of his other films, including Underworld Beauty (1958), Kanto Wanderer (1963), Tattooed Life (1965), and the aforementioned Zigeunerweisen are available from other distributors.

So, huge AsianCineFest thanks to Suzuki for producing a fabulous body of fascinating works, and best wishes for a "Happy Birthday!"

Seijun Suzuki at IMDb

Seijun Suzuki at Wikipedia

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