Branded to Kill and Trapped in Lust

A dazzling, dizzying descent into black and white madness, Branded to Kill is one of the most stylish and well-loved Japanese films ever made, but it took a while to find its audience.

The appreciation certainly didn’t start inside Nikkatsu, the studio that produced the film. Following completion, Branded to Kill was screened for the studio heads, many of who were left very confused, and unable to unravel the film’s befuddling plot. They were reportedly angered by Suzuki’s seeming disregard for narrative sense, and so he was promptly fired from the studio. Suzuki has sadly made relatively few films since, although his most recent film, 2005’s Princess Raccoon, really was something special.

I must have seen Branded to Kill around a dozen times now and while I do feel like I know what’s going on in the plot, I’m still not convinced I fully appreciate every aspect of the narrative. Even still, this has never seemed like an issue. Each time, I’ve just been utterly lost in Suzuki’s creation, wrapped up in Branded to Kill‘s bleak, monochromatic but oddly cool world, crashing back into colour and reality only after the film’s stark finale and closing credits. Continue reading “Branded to Kill and Trapped in Lust”

Cruel Story of Youth – An introduction to the Japanese New Wave

The Japanese New Wave of the sixties is one of the most difficult movements in cinema to discuss if you’re attempting to pin down a particular group of filmmakers, or even a specific time frame.

This was definitely not the work of a group of determined individuals focused on creating a movement, there was no manifesto, and many of those involved deny that any such movement existed. On the other hand, when one surveys the cinema of Japan from the early fifties until the early seventies there is a very identifiable shift. It’s what could conservatively be called a gradual sea-change, or perhaps more generously, a bona fide New Wave.

This somewhat amorphous movement is nonetheless a fascinating insight into a specific period of Japanese cinematic history. Not only this, but it also provides us with way to contextualise the preceding years just was well as we might measure how its influence rippled into the following decade. Continue reading “Cruel Story of Youth – An introduction to the Japanese New Wave”