Action and Anarchy: The Films of Seijun Suzuki

MARCH 2-3, 11-12

“Seijun Suzuki is a master stylist and one of Japanese cinema's greatest innovators.”

“To experience a film by Japanese B-movie visionary Seijun Suzuki is to experience Japanese cinema in all its frenzied, voluptuous excess.”

In a career spanning nearly five decades, Seijun Suzuki, now 92, amassed a body of work ranging from B-movie potboilers to beguiling metaphysical mysteries. On the occasion of the publication of Time and Place Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki (Smithsonian Institution, 2015) by Tom Vick, a travelling retrospective of the director’s work has been organized by the Freer and Sacker Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and The Japan Foundation.

“The eccentric visionary of genre cinema ... His work is subversively and joyfully excessive.”

Suzuki first became famous when he was fired by Nikkatsu Studios for making films that, as he put it, “made no sense and made no money.” But it was his freewheeling approach and audacious experimentation that gained Suzuki a cult following in Japan and abroad. Suzuki’s job at Nikkatsu was to make B-movies out of scripts that were assigned to him. In the mid-1960s, with dozens such films under his belt, Suzuki’s restlessness began to come through as he and his collaborators, art director Takeo Kimura and cinematographers Shigeyoshi Mine and Kazue Nagatsuka, began experimenting with the assigned material. These films established Suzuki as a stylistic innovator working within — and rebelling against — the commercial constraints of B-movie studio work.

“A brilliant nonconformist ... An energizing source for directors as different as Kitano Takeshi, Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar-Wai, and John Woo.”

In the 1990s, retrospectives in Europe and North America — including one at the Vancouver International Film Festival in 1991 — brought long-overdue attention to Suzuki’s films in the West. A new generation of devotees, most notably Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino, praised Suzuki in the press and referenced his work in their films.

The Cinematheque’s Vancouver presentation of the films of Seijun Suzuki showcases ten remarkable works from this irreverent, deliriously stylish, outrageously entertaining director’s peak period, the 1960s, and includes all his greatest hits.


Acknowledgements: This travelling retrospective was programmed and organized by Tom Vick, Curator of Film, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution (Washington D.C.). It was co-organized by and is co-presented with the Japan Foundation.

Film notes by Tom Vick, Freer and Sackler Galleries. Series introduction adapted from Mr. Vick’s introduction for Freer and Sackler.

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Tom Vick's Time and Place are Nonsense:
The Films of Seijun Suzuki
(2015) available for
purchase at The Cinematheque during the retrospective!



Click for film notes + showtimes

Recent Showings

Actor/singer Tetsuya Watari is a reformed yakuza on the run from his former comrades in Suzuki's zeitgeisty, trash-meets-art thriller.
A high school kid relieves his sexual frustration through fighting in one of Suzuki's most personal and impassioned works.
This fractured film noir, an anarchic send-up of B-movie clichés, is perhaps Suzuki’s most famous and influential film.
Two brothers unite to avenge their yakuza father’s death in Suzuki's overlooked gem from his most fertile period.
A 1960s riff on the opera Carmen, this picaresque tale sends its heroine from the countryside to Tokyo in search of success as a singer.
This story of two brothers on the run from the yakuza features one of Suzuki's most iconic and audacious violations of film form.
Suzuki favourite Yumiko Nogawa gives perhaps her most ferocious performance in this scathing portrayal of Japanese militarism pre-WWII.
Suzuki puts a spin on the classic yakuza movie conflict between giri and ninjo in this adaptation of a book by Taiko Hirabayashi.
Part social realist drama, part sadomasochistic trash opera, Gate of Flesh paints a dog-eat-dog portrait of postwar Tokyo.
A disgraced ex-cop pits two yakuza gangs against each other in Suzuki's pulpy 1963 breakthrough.