My responses to Suzuki's movies really depend upon which order I saw them in. Tokyo Drifter is the first of his movies that I came across. I found it a bit intoxicating in the way that it threw typical cinematic grammar to the wind and soaked in the bold color schemes and seemingly Brechtian acting style that he was going for. In subsequent viewings of his other movies he seems simply incoherent and thus, less fun.
Uninviting in its talky and dull gangster politics that connect the action scenes, while its characters and story never deeply arouse the emotions-- even despite its garish, eye-candy colors and jazzy-pop score-- more than for a surface-level connection. It's cool in its look and feel often, but while style can sometimes fill in for substance, it too has to elicit deeply felt emotions. It doesn't here.
Short as it is the film is still too long for its story (slow pace). Bold colors to show personalities of characters (innovative for the time) and render various atmospheres. Like comic strip thus surprised to hear that Sutsuki never used storyboards! The discussion among 3 people near the end is really Kubric.
I like Seijun's disregard of movie logic, sacrificing plot for cool action sequences because we have seen it all before and Seijun fucking knew better than repeat it. The protagonist is so cool he whistles the movie's theme song. EDIT: Watched it again. A gorgeous 35mm print. A closeup on cinemascope image is a beautiful thing.
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.