Friday, June 30, 2017

Youth of the Beast

"Minami, Let's Get It Over With."

Short notes on Suzuki's Youth of the Beast [Yajû no seishun, 1963], which I originally wrote for the back-cover blurb of the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray in 2014. "The film that Seijun Suzuki considered the first to execute his full-formed kaleidoscopic style."


Right on the heels of the riotous Go to Hell, Bastards: Detective Bureau 2 3, Seijun Suzuki unleashed what would come to be seen as his true breakthrough, the film that cemented "the Suzuki sensibility": Youth of the Beast [Yajû no seishun]. A delirious fantasia that contains "youth" and "beast" only insofar as in 1963 youth culture, yakuza, and yakuza movies were violently upstart things...

Youth of the Beast is a yakuza tale with a premise like Akira Kurosawa's Yôjinbô, whereby neither of two rival gangs can claim moral superiority over the other. The film stars Suzuki's iconic '60s regular Jô Shishido, with his dare-you-to-call-them-out artificial cheek implants like a new kind of screen-star blasphemy. There are drug-addled whores, gunfights in a toxin-hued apocalypse, and at least one alien landscape — a a mind-searing eruption of sulphur yellow desert like an action-figure playset reeking of sex.

Suzuki's infectious go-for-broke energy is assisted by wide-angle lenses and stunning production design that add a Minnelli-worthy sensuousness to the picture's 'Scope framing. His film would go on to inspire John Woo's forthcoming remake titled Day of the Beast [—??? CK.]; Nikkatsu have in recent times deemed Youth of the Beast one of their treasures. •


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]


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