During the 1930s, a teenager yearns for a Catholic girl, whose only desire is to reform his sinful tendencies. Hormones raging, the young man channels his unsatisfied lust into the only outlet available: savage, crazed violence.
Police detective Tajima, tasked with tracking down stolen firearms, turns an underworld grudge into a blood-bath. Suzuki transforms a colorful pot-boiler into an on-target send-up of cultural colonialism and post-war greed.
The number-three-ranked hit-man, with a fetish for sniffing boiling rice, fumbles his latest job, which puts him into conflict with a mysterious woman whose death wish inspires her to surround herself with dead butterflies and dead birds. Worse danger comes from his own treacherous wife and finally with the number-one-ranked hit-man, known only as a phantom to those who fear his unseen presence.Written by
Seijun Suzuki refers to his films as "entertainment" and without critical merit. Yet, this was somewhat tongue in cheek as he stated that critics feel a movie must have a "moral or some social commentary" to be worthy of attention. Be that as it may, "Branded to Kill" is simply a fantastic achievement. Suzuki was working with both a lead man and a script provided to him by the Nikkatsu Corporation. As such, when you evaluate his films, you do so by focusing on the technical merits. Personally, I find his disconnected editing, and surreal lighting styles to be amazing. Suzuki's skill turns what is otherwise a laughable boiler plate film noir into something more. The lighting and editing make the exclamations that the script doesn't, and the decision to shoot the final scene in a boxing ring is brilliant.
It was entertaining to watch person after person jump up and down about the originality of "Ghost Dog" with no mention of the fact that Jarmusch lifted one of the assassination sequences unchanged from "Branded to Kill". Hopefully as more of Suzuki's work comes to DVD, people and critics alike will recognize a blatant tribute when it is given. Suzuki deserves them all.
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