Japan Cinema and Cinema Fanatic are hosting an awesome blogathon this week to raise money for the relief effort in Japan. Hopefully a lot of people will get involved by either donating money or writing a post, because this is a really cool idea. AND I KNOW the film blogging community is full of awesome people (I mean, I did write a post about the subject a couple days ago), so this blogathon is really gonna be exciting.
I chose to write about Tokyo Drifter (1966). Because it is a brilliantly cool, '60s-epitomizing, awesomeness-personified movie.
I remember the entire reason I watched it the first time was because I saw this movie poster:
This is one of the most jaw-droppingly stylistic films one will ever see. There is so much color, my poor eyes can hardly handle it. Seijun Suzuki - who was basically just a clinically insane genius (the best kind of genius, of course) - had been making increasingly odd films at this time (one producer famously stated that a Suzuki film "made no sense and no money"). He had been given a couple warnings by his producers, but still he continued to gleefully create nonsensically brilliant films. In punishment, the budget for his next film was slashed down - in hopes that he would make "normal" movies or something. (I mean, really?! Suzuki -- normal? I'm not getting the connection.) Instead, Suzuki took his smaller budget and created Tokyo Drifter.
Contrary to most Mind-Smushing Entertainment, Tokyo Drifter actually does have a fully-working plot. Confusing as heck, but definitely there. At its very core it's a film about loyalty. But, of course, The Millie cares very little about the cores or messages of films, so we shall move on to the overwhelming coolness. ;-D
This movie is pure '60s all the way through: the clothes, the sets, the minor characters, the music-- everything. The music is especially brilliant. Our protagonist Tetsuya (a former hit-man TRYING to go straight) is also known as Tetsu the Phoenix -- because he can't die. Everywhere he goes he sings or whistles the theme of the Drifting Man from Tokyo. Whenever an enemy thinks they've finally finished him off (and there is this one guy who is OBSESSED with destroying Tetsu) they'll suddenly hear the song (and usually they then freak out as only Japanese hit-men living in a Suzuki film can).
Here is a bit of the song from the opening credits.
I'm sorry if it's stuck in your head forever now. heh heh heh....
I suppose if I was going to get poetic about Tokyo Drifter, I would say that it is film at its most literal. The plot-line and story definitely add to the overall movie, but the film itself is just so breathtakingly fascinating. The colors are very...colorful. But, not in a hugely jarring way. The colors fit each moment and shot perfectly. And the camera angles are absolutely gorgeous. I normally have no problems watching sub-titled foreign films; reading the words is usually simple and unobtrusive to my viewing. Not so with this movie. Every time I watch it, I forget to keep reading the subtitles...because I'm so fascinated by the movement on screen. That's a pretty awesome film.
And that's why I love Tokyo Drifter so much. It's bright, and colorful, and very odd, and occasionally quite confusing. But, it's brilliant. There is nothing else like it. I can't explain it (as you can see from this frighteningly disjointed post), but I think it mostly has to do with the utter and complete coolness. Watching this movie always makes me want to go be a Japanese hit-man on the run, who constantly wears the same light blue suit and sings his own theme song. That's some pretty powerful coolness going on there.