Tokyo Drifter

Co-presented by the Japan Foundation

Genre-smasher, jazz gangster, captain of cool: with Tokyo Drifter, maverick filmmaker Seijun Suzuki hit an avant-garde high that left an indelible mark on movie history. Tetsuya Watari – a then-massively famous Japanese pop star – is a wandering Yakuza on the run from ruthless, warring gangsters. Sounds like a million crime pictures you’ve seen before, but this is Suzuki at the pinnacle of his radical, individualist, genre reinvention. We are quickly whisked away into a non-linear, surrealist, absurdist landscape; together with Branded to Kill – which led to his termination from Nikkatsu studios – Suzuki crafted a pair of extravagant gangster film fever-dreams. A master of the widescreen (scope) frame, Suzuki uses every trick in the book this side of Godard or Bava – opening in lush black & white before exploding with vibrant neons, epic Spaghetti Western-esque close-ups and saloons, Vincente Minnelli musical numbers – in this veritable feast of stylized pop-art that influenced, among others, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, and Wong Kar-Wai.

Dir. Seijun Suzuki, 1966, 35mm, 83 min.