From the ridiculous to the sublime, Seijun Suzuki’s 1967 Branded To Kill has been released recently by Home Vision – and it’s stunning. Suzuki turned out Yakuza thrillers like Tokyo Drifter ( also just released from Home Vision) for a studio called Nikkatsu, but when the studio execs saw the complteted Branded, Suzuki was fired.
It’s the story of a rice-loving Yakuza hit man – ranked as the number 3 killer – whose life becomes a surreal experience after he bungles a hit because a butterfly lands on the scope of his rifle. This is kinetic, brilliant film making, like fuel -injected Godard, full of bizarre touches (a woman who lives in an apartment covered with pinned butterflies drives in the rain with the top of her convertible down and a real dead bird hanging from her rear view mirror), weird humor, sex, and an almost avant -garde, deconstructed feel.
This is a reminder of how bracing pure cinema can be.