This movie was a major disappointment. After a decade of retirement, director Seijun Suzuki returns with a "reworking" of his Branded to Kill. He's definitely either lost his touch or was overly influenced by others to push the envelope further on his abstract style.
Too many times people try to hide rubbish behind the titles of "abstract" and "artistic style". That won't work here. Suzuki's camera work, settings and editing seem decidedly rusty. The zooms and tilts are awkward. The visuals seem forced, which is a fatal flaw for abstract.
So yes, Suzuki retains his abstract style. He just doesn't execute it very well. Maybe he was away from the camera too long. Please see some of his earlier works for clearly superior filmmaking.
Adding to the misery is atrocious acting. It takes skill to pull off the detached, unfocused sense of drama required for abstract. So here, more than ever, you need actors with this particular ability. Makiko Esumi is not one. I enjoyed her TV series (one of which single-handedly brought the mini-mini skirt to the forefront in Japan) but she is hopelessly out of her league here. She wouldn't have had the skill to bring Noraneko ("Stray Cat") to life in a well-executed rendition, much less salvage Suzuki's mess here.
The rest of the cast, some of who are very skilled in their craft, act just as woodenly. So too much blame should not be cast at Esumi.
So, from mind-numbingly boring "death scenes" to borderline pedophilia, this movie is almost certain to disappoint. Unless you are simply determined to be "cool" and decide to chalk all the shortcomings up to "abstract style", stay well away from Pistol Opera.
I've never given a zero, and won't start here. I give one point for how good Esumi looked in her modified kimono and boots. I give another for Suzuki sticking with the style all the way through the (far too long) movie, when even he must have realized how badly it was failing.
2 out of 10.
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