Another peak-period product of Suzuki's visual design-addled, genre-blending mind, this bildungsroman follows a reformed Yakuza's violence-spangled ascent toward the higher drift, one that abjures apathy and loyalty equally, embracing the provisional nature of bonds formed in conditions of permanent transition without sacrificing passion and care. Still, it amounts to a far better kaleidoscope than character study.
Criterions description of this one deems it “jazzy”, and I can’t find a more defining or appropriate word to call it. The swooning main theme, the flashy visuals, and the cool detachment of the performers gives it a very 60’s B-movie feel, that works to give it unique style. This style does not entirely work on me however, and I felt the film was cool and nicely stylized, but somehow lacking in my engagement with it.
This movie started out with a couple of the most amazing black and white shots I've seen. This made me feel like this could become an amazing movie. The framing was nice and Suzuki used some nice cinematic tricks. For me it never delivered on its initial promise though. Why, why, why not stick with the black and white?
Suzuki rounds up another fine classic in his yazuka-genre films with very colorful "swinging sixties" production-designing, groovy jazz/rock score, and good gangster action (including the wildest brawl ever shot). However, Suzuki still pushed his limits with Nikkatsu on making his films at that time but managed to make one more before being fired. Could also see this influenced John Woo to make his films, too.
This is mostly an exercise in style. I can imagine that this was much more fresh in its time, but now that there have been so many films inspired by the yakuza and stories that have used these tropes; it is less special in the story and character departments. But...the style in it, from the staging, the lighting, the set design, and the cinematography is eye popping is transfixing and impressive today.
It took me some time to figure out that this is actually a post modern western movie disguised as a yakuza film. That combined with an unusual amount of self irony and humor makes it a very unique viewing experience. Very glad I was able to watch it in an actual cinema.
Can the design of a film get in the way of its story? Stylistically a masterpiece, but the story relies heavily on plot mechanics and so, at points, the lack of clarity in the storytelling causes frustation. Emotion over content with a story that relies heavily on cognition is a risky game. I am jealous that Suzuki was able to make films in this way; it would never fly now.
A candy coated take on yakuza conventions in this strange blending of genres from Seijun Suzuki that didn't quite live up to its reputation for me Amazing use of the wide screen form and a spectacular swath of colour didn't quite make up for the dispassionate performances or sense of parody.