Monday, October 23, 2006

Suzuki Seijun: still killing

83-year-old Suzuki Seijun has pulmonary emphysema that requires him to be permanently attached to a respirator, but it didn't stop him from making an appearance last Saturday at a retrospective in Shibuya celebrating the 50th anniversary of his directorial debut.

Mari Annu (58), the striking Indian-Japanese actress who played heroine Misako in 1967's "Branded To Kill" (Koroshi no Rakuin), was also in attendance on the first day of the "Suzuki Seijun 48-pon Shobu" (Suzuki Seijun 48 Film Challenge) at the great little meiga-za (revival movie theatre) Cinema Vera.

Mari had been plucked from Nikkatsu's music halls for the role by Suzuki himself. "Back then I had felt a strong urge to commit suicide, but when I [read the script] I was captivated by Misako. I loved her name, but it was her first line "My dream is to die" that had a profound impact on me. It was like lightning."

"Suzuki Seijun 48-pon Shobu", currently running as a sidebar of this year's Tokyo International Film Festival, features 48 of the maverick filmmaker's works (unfortunately, without subtitles) from his 1956 debut "Minato no Kanpai: Shori o Wa ga Te ni" (Harbour Toast: Victory Is In Our Grasp) to 2001's "Pistol Opera", and is the first to screen his entire body of work for Nikkatsu. Suzuki sheepishly admitted that "Some of these films are so embarrassing, I wish they wouldn't screen them."

The incorrigibile Suzuki was in fine form as usual, so here's some other choice quotes:

On the use of "Maebari", strips of adhesive material for covering an actor's genitals that came into regular usage on movie sets in the 1960s: "I said it was the director's job to put them on the actresses, but unfortunately they turned me down. I hear it hurt to take those things off." Mari added: "It did. It was a real let-down when Shishido Jo wore one on set. I'd been hoping to see him in the buff."

On the abundance of female protagonists in his recent films: "That's because it's mostly men who go to see them. I don't know about guys going together though! (laughs) Action films are for women. They like the bloodthirsty stuff."

And on cast relations: "A lot of directors who were born in the Meiji period got it on with their actresses. It wasn't the done thing for guys like me who were born in the Taisho period. If only I'd been born 10 years earlier..." (sources: Sanspo, Nikkan Sports, Cinematopics)

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