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YOUTH OF THE BEAST

Japan, 1963 (MIFF 2000, Seijun Suzuki – Violence & Beauty)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Jojini Mizuno is a disgraced ex-cop convicted for illicit dealings. He infiltrates two competing gangs with a secret agenda, setting mobster against mobster. Like a stubborn drunkard, he crashes his way into the most unimaginable scenarios, unleashing brutality, anguish and psychosis. In the traditions of kabuki's operatic surfeit and the samurai movie's penchant for visualising the lone wanderer in mythical relation to his surroundings, Suzuki glorifies Mizuno's stature in high-theatrical repose. Just as each Yakuza is typified by a specific psychotic blend, so are their environments breathtaking, surreal, overwhelming. But is this film really 'over the top'? Or is it an example of a film that has nothing whatsoever to do with what we have historically defined as 'naturalistic'? Surely one must note that the apparent excessiveness in this example of Suzuki's assured staging and orchestration of audiovisual elements is consistent, measured and controlled. To maintain its hysteria—to modulate its continual gushing and billowing moments—is no mean feat. Plus, one could only do so through knowing the total theatrical logic under which such hysteria operates. Everything in Youth of the Beast indicates this, from its memorable vistas of windswept urbania to some of the coolest nightclub settings in cinema. Suzuki's 'artificialism' here predates the surge of similarly hyper-plastic decors which characterised the gaudy collisions between cinema, MTV and postmodernism in American, British and Japanese cinema from the 80s. No mere protracted exercise in style, Youth of the Beast is set in a psychologically aberrant landscape wherein everyone has been pushed 'over the top'.

See also...

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BRANDED TO KILL

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