Tetsu en Tokyo drifter (Tokyo nagaremono, Seijun Suzuki,1966), Paula Nelson en Made in USA (Made in USA, Jean-Luc Godard, 1966) y Geneviève en Los paraguas de Cherburgo (Les parapluies de Cherbourg, Jacques Demy, 1964) caminan algo perdidos y solos en las fronteras de los géneros.
Tokyo Nagarenomo aka Tokyo Drifter (dir. Seijun Suzuki, Japan, 1966)
By the late 60’s, B-movie director Seijun Suzuki was blacklisted by the Japanese studios for his smart-ass refusal to, please, just make conventional gangster movies. In a way it was good that his producers attempted to give him less creative power, as he took this as a challenege and ended up making original, artsy, funny, but often incomprehensible pictures. In the cases of Tokyo Drifter and a couple other films, Suzuki invented what I call the Psychadelic Noir.
The story is about a yakuza ganster who’s loyalty wavers when he is forced to leave Tokyo or potentially be killed by the opposing gang–or his own. Sounds like something that’d be shot in black and white, with moody music, maybe ominous rainstorms or something, right? The first five minutes open in ultra-high contrast black and white, then suddenly explode into sets and costumes using the whole color spectrum. Tetsuya (Tetsuya Watari), the protagonist and drifter of the title, whistles and even sings his own theme song. The whole movie is a bit difficult to follow, but it doesn’t really matter because it is simply a whole lot of fun!
The chances Suzuki takes in art direction and lighting often brings what the studio hoped to be another run-of-the-mill movie into the realm of surrealist art. During a gun fight early on, the light coming through the shoji screens in the background go from white to red at the sound of a gun shot (see image above). In a climactic scene taking place on what is obviously an artificial, sound stage version of a music hall, the completely white set changes from yellow, green, etc, by way of colored filters on the lights.
During my first viewing, I rewound the tape countless times when Tetsu throws his gun in the air, then awkwardly scrambles to catch it and shoot. This wasn’t because of the flawless or mind-blowing originality of this “trick”, but rather for it’s clunkiness. “What the hell were they thinking?” I kept asking myself, in a positive way of course. These sentiments went through my mind again while watching another of Suzuki’s psychadelic noirs, in which the main character, hanging upside down from a rope in the middle of a room, swings back and forth until his gun on a nearby table is within reach. Once again, clever, but when you’re watching these low-budget antics it is also a but much on the ridiculously good side.
More on that other Suzuki picture further down my list.
Oh yeah, and that whole dance club sequence in Kill Bill with the 5,6,7,8’s… that is a complete rip-off/homage to Tokyo Drifter.
Oh wow, want. German poster for the Seijun Suzuki film “Tokyo Drifter”. Love it!!
“Tokyo nagaremono” (music plays in the background)…along with the unforgettable Drifter Theme on the Tokyo Drifter ost, the GS band The Spiders also make an appearance with their kick-ass track “Furi Furi”. Granted, the film version of the track Furi Furi is far more garaged-up than the one presently found on YouTube.
Tratando de seguir el rastro de otros nagaremono, como lo fueron Tomi y Shukishi durante su estancia en Tokyo en Tokyo monogatari (Cuentos de Tokio, Yasujiro Ozu), me encuentro en el parque Ueno, entre pájaros y carpas, rodeando un maravilloso lago totalmente colonizado por flores de loto en su fase otoñal. Pronto vino a mi encuentro una mujer budista tratando de colonizarme; a lo mejor lo consigue: mañana a las 4 quiere quedar para enseñarme el templo Ikebukuro. Eso sí, if typhoon doesn’t come.