Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill director Seijun Suzuki dies at 93

Suzuki’s stylised gangster films are some of the most eye-popping genre movies of the 1960s.

Samuel Wigley

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

The cult Japanese director Seijun Suzuki has died at the age of 93.

Famed for matching pulp stories with pop-art visuals in 1960s classics such as Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967), Suzuki’s films often straddle the line between a new wave sensibility and B-movie thrills. Tokyo Drifter, for example, begins in over-exposed black and white, before switching to bright colours for its tale of a drifting youth caught up in a gangland war. Meanwhile, its blood-soaked climax takes place within an all-white room.

Contracted to the Nikkatsu studio between 1956 and 1967, Suzuki directed a string of economic but very stylish films, often variations on the yakuza genre. These include the wonderfully titled Detective Bureau 23: Go to Hell, Bastards! and Youth of the Beast (both 1963).

With his genre films pushing in ever more wild and experimental directions, he was let go by the studio in the late 1960s and subsequently worked as an independent. His later trilogy, the Taishō trilogy – Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kagero-za (1981) and Yumeji (1991) – won acclaim, including a Japanese Academy Award.

Branded to Kill (Koroshi no rakuin, 1967)

Branded to Kill (Koroshi no rakuin, 1967)

Though many of his films were and remain difficult to see in the UK, the key titles began to emerge on DVD from the 1990s onwards. Directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-wai praise his influence.

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