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A flavorless yakuza melodrama from Seijun Suzuki. So, he is human after all.
Kanto Wanderer is not a good place to start an exploration of either Seijun Suzuki or yakuza movies in general. For real Suzuki fans it's interesting to see what he was doing during his "salary man" phase, before breaking loose with surreal masterpieces like Branded to Kill or Tokyo Drifter. If you're looking for a superior, mid-career, yakuza film from Suzuki, watch his action-packed Youth of the Beast (also made in 1963).
The real problem here is the script, calling it soft would be an understatement. Yakuza. Gambling. Women. That's the plot, and though it might sound good, in this case it just fails to gel. If you've seen other Suzuki films you're probably expecting me to say he triumphs over a mediocre script. Sorry, not this time. Though there are definitely a few stylistic flourishes, mostly in the last twenty minutes, overall it's bland and what's worse it *really* drags toward the middle. Ultimately the director is as responsible for this mess as his screenwriter and his star.
Speaking of that star, I don't have any idea if Akira Kobayashi is an icon in Japanese cinema or someone who faded into obscurity immediately after this film, but I'd put my money on the latter. Starring as Katsuta he looks the part of the young yakuza underboss, but he doesn't have half the screen presence of Jo Shishido or some of Suzuki's other leads. The three schoolgirls going giggly over him in the opening scene is all too apropos.
So, that's what's wrong with it. On the other hand the remastered DVD from Homevision looks spectacular. The film is shot in widescreen "TohoScope" and Seijun Suzuki is an unqualified master at filling up that huge rectangular.
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