|Directed by||Seijun Suzuki|
|Written by||Yasunori Kawauchi|
|Produced by||Tetsuro Nakagawa|
|Starring|| Tetsuya Watari |
|Edited by||Shinya Inoue|
|Music by||Hajime Kaburagi|
|April 10, 1966|
Tokyo Drifter (東京流れ者, Tōkyō nagaremono) is a 1966 yakuza film directed by Seijun Suzuki. The story follows Tetsuya Watari as the reformed yakuza hitman "Phoenix" Tetsu who is forced to roam Japan avoiding execution by rival gangs.
An old yakuza boss named Kurata decides to retire from his criminal activities and disbands his gang. His fiercely loyal enforcer, Tetsuya "Phoenix Tetsu" Hondo, finds himself unable to enjoy a life outside of organized crime. He is hounded by a rival gang after turning down a recruitment offer by its boss, Otsuka.Otsuka sees Kurata's retirement as an opportunity to seize his territory via a real estate scam, seeing Tetsu as a threat to his plans. Kurata is eventually forced to convince Tetsu to become a drifter.
Otsuka sends his hitman "Viper" Tatsuzo to kill Tetsu, who evades him and Otsuka's hit squad a number of times with help from a former Otsuka gang member named Kenji. Tetsu later reaches the establishment of Kurata's ally Umetani, who reveals that Kurata joined forces with Otsuka and placed a bounty on Tetsu's head. A betrayed Tetsu returns to Tokyo for a final confrontation with Otsuka, killing everyone but his former girlfriend Chiharu, and Kurata takes his own life to redeem himself. Tetsu rejects Chiharu's plea for her to accompany him on his travels, explaining that he has dedicated himself to the wanderer lifestyle and could not abandon it for another's company.
Nikkatsu bosses had been warning Suzuki to tone down his bizarre visual style for years and drastically reduced Tokyo Drifter's budget in hopes of getting results. This had the opposite effect in that Suzuki and art director Takeo Kimura pushed themselves to new heights of surrealism and absurdity. The studio's next move was to impose the further restriction of filming in black and white on his next two films, which again Suzuki met with even greater bizarreness culminating in his dismissal for "incomprehensibility".
Because of budget limitations, Suzuki had to cut connecting shots out of many fights, leading to a need for more creative camera work.
Various shots of Tokyo were used to establish the setting as the then-contemporary post-1964 Japan.Suzuki drew inspiration from a wide variety of sources in making Tokyo Drifter, including the musical films of the 1950s, pop art, absurdist comedy, and surrealist film.
Suzuki displays common themes found in Yakuza films, particularly the theme of loyalty, in order to parody the message and presentation of traditional Yakuza films. He uses his depictions of Yakuza relationships to show the inherent weakness of the archetype, particularly the possible abuses of power that can arise from unquestioning allegiance.Further, the common theme of corporate corruption is also parodied through exaggeration when the main character becomes an expendable retainer. The conventions in the film further parody the conformity of theme and structure apparent in all Japanese film, but especially in Yakuza films of the time, particularly its excesses.
The mise en scène of Tokyo Drifter is highly stylized.Film reviewer Nikolaos Vryzidis claims that the film crosses over into a number of different genres, but most resembles the avant-garde films occurring in the 1960s.
At times, the film draws a good deal of inspiration from westerns. The whistling of the main character Tetsu is reminiscent of cowboy heroes. Near the middle of the film, a large bar fight erupts; this scene is meant to directly parody western films, everyone in the saloon joins in the brawl against United States Navy sailors, and comical violence is used where no one is permanently injured, despite the large-scale violence of the scene.
The majority of the film takes place in Tokyo, but portrays the city in a highly stylized manner.The opening sequence consists of a mash of images from metropolitan Tokyo, meant to condense the feeling of the city into one sequence.
The film opens in stylized black and white, which becomes vibrant color in all subsequent scenes.This served to represent Tokyo post-1964 Summer Olympics.
Vryzidis claims that Suzuki's later films, once the studio gave him more freedom, never reached the same level of artistic quality as Tokyo Drifter, where the studio attempted to impose a large amount of control over the project.Tetsu, the main character of the film, has also been well received. One reviewer commented that he always looks "cool", even when he is not the toughest guy in the room.
Stephen Barber called the visualization in Tokyo Drifter "bizarre and individual".Douglass Pratt praised the film for its quirkiness and character. He further stated that the plot of the film does not matter so much as "the gorgeous Pop Art sets, the bizarre musical sequences, the confusing but ballistic action scenes and the film's gunbutt attitude."
The film is considered ahead of its time, as it abandoned the themes of the Ninkyo eiga films popular at the time, and combines with themes from the later Jitsuroku eiga Yakuza films, which disavowed the romantic and nostalgic views of the Yakuza in favor of social criticism.
The Criterion Collection released the film outside Japan in DVD format in 1999.Criterion also released a Blu-ray version in 2013.
The film has a recurrent appearance of Tetsu's girlfriend as a lounge singer repeating several times her signature song throughout the film.
|Tokyo Drifter 2: The Sea is Bright Red as the Color of Love|
|Directed by||Kenjirō Morinaga|
|Screenplay by||Keihan Ono, Daigo Mitsushiro|
|Music by||Hajime Kaburagi|
Tokyo Drifter 2: The Sea is Bright Red as the Color of Love (続東京流れ者 海は真っ赤な恋の色, Zoku Tōkyō nagaremono Umiwa Makkana Koinoiro) is a 1966 Japanese crime film and sequel to Tokyo Drifter.
Tetsuya completed his prison term in Tokyo. He goes to Kochi to meet his big brother Hide.
Seijun Suzuki, born Seitaro Suzuki, was a Japanese filmmaker, actor, and screenwriter. His films are known for their jarring visual style, irreverent humour, nihilistic cool and entertainment-over-logic sensibility. He made 40 predominately B-movies for the Nikkatsu Company between 1956 and 1967, working most prolifically in the yakuza genre. His increasingly surreal style began to draw the ire of the studio in 1963 and culminated in his ultimate dismissal for what is now regarded as his magnum opus, Branded to Kill (1967), starring notable collaborator Joe Shishido. Suzuki successfully sued the studio for wrongful dismissal, but he was blacklisted for 10 years after that. As an independent filmmaker, he won critical acclaim and a Japanese Academy Award for his Taishō trilogy, Zigeunerweisen (1980), Kagero-za (1981) and Yumeji (1991).
The Nikkatsu Corporation is a Japanese entertainment company known for its film and television productions. It is Japan's oldest major movie studio, founded in 1912 during the silent film era. The name Nikkatsu amalgamates the words Nippon Katsudō Shashin, literally "Japan Motion Pictures".
Branded to Kill is a 1967 Japanese yakuza film directed by Seijun Suzuki and starring Joe Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Annu Mari and Mariko Ogawa. The story follows contract killer Goro Hanada as he is recruited by a mysterious woman named Misako for a seemingly impossible mission. When the mission fails, he is hunted by the phantom Number One Killer, whose methods threaten his life and sanity.
Tokyo University of the Arts or Geidai (芸大) is the most prestigious art school in Japan. Located in Ueno Park, it also has facilities in Toride, Ibaraki, Yokohama, Kanagawa, and Kitasenju and Adachi, Tokyo. The university has trained renowned artists in the fields of painting, sculpture, crafts, inter-media, sound, music composition, traditional instruments, art curation and global arts.
Toshio Masuda is a Japanese film director. He developed a reputation as a consistent box office hit-maker. Over the course of five decades, 16 of his films made the yearly top ten lists at the Japanese box office—a second place record in the industry. Between 1958 and 1968 he directed 52 films for the Nikkatsu Company. He was their top director of action films and worked with the company's top stars, including Yujiro Ishihara with whom he made 25 films. After the breakdown of the studio system, he moved on to a succession of big-budget movies including the American-Japanese co-production Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and the science fiction epic Catastrophe 1999: The Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974). He worked on such anime productions as the Space Battleship Yamato series. His corporate drama Company Funeral (1989) earned him a Japanese Academy Award nomination and wins at the Blue Ribbon Awards and Mainichi Film Awards. In Japan, his films are well-remembered by fans and called genre landmarks by critics. He remains little known abroad save for rare exceptions of his post-Nikkatsu work such as Tora! Tora! Tora!. However, a number of his films were screened in a 2005 Nikkatsu Action Cinema retrospective]in Italy and a few have since made their way to the United States. In 2009, he helped produce Space Battleship Yamato: Resurrection.
Yakuza film is a popular film genre in Japanese cinema which focuses on the lives and dealings of yakuza, Japanese organized crime syndicates. In the silent film era, depictions of bakuto as sympathetic Robin Hood-like characters were common.
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Joe Shishido was a Japanese actor most recognizable for his intense, eccentric yakuza film roles and his artificially enlarged cheekbones. He appeared in some 300 films but is best known in the West for his performance in the cult film Branded to Kill (1967). In Japan, he is also known by the nickname Joe the Ace for his popular role in the Western Quick Draw Joe (1961).
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Reiko Oshida (大信田礼子) is a Japanese actress and singer.
Tetsuya Watari born Michihiko Watase was a Japanese film, stage, and television actor.
Takeo Kimura was a Japanese art director, writer and film director. Beginning his career in 1945 he art-directed well over 200 films. He was one of Japan's best known art directors, most famously for his collaborations with cult director Seijun Suzuki through the 1960s at the Nikkatsu Company, exemplified by Tokyo Drifter (1966). Other directors with whom he frequently worked include Toshio Masuda, Kazuo Kuroki, Kei Kumai and Kaizo Hayashi. At age 90 he made his feature film directorial debut with Dreaming Awake (2008). He had also worked as a critic, writer, painter, photographer and teacher.
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Outlaw: Gangster VIP is a 1968 Japanese crime film directed by Toshio Masuda. The film stars Tetsuya Watari who plays Goro, a gangster who was sent to prison for three years for stabbing a hitman who belonged to the rival gang called the Aokis. On his release from prison, Goro finds out his gang is in decline and learns that the hitman he stabbed is still alive.
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