Tokyo Drifter Reviews
Till memories of Tokyo are gone
Don't cry for me, night rain
A man's life bleeds away in crimson colors
The drifter from Tokyo"
Tetsu the Phoenix (Tesuya Watari) sings as he walks along a snowbank trying to avoid a rival Yakuza gang that is out to kill him in Seijun Suzuki's 1966 yakuza film "Tokyo Drifter." Tetsu is very loyal to boss Kurata (Ryuji Kita) who wishes to end his criminal activites and go straight, Tetsu wants to follow. But a rival gang wishes for Kurata to give his seal to a land deed in their real estate scam plan, but when their intimidation fails and Tetsu arrives to save Karuta. Otsuka (Hideaki Esumi), the rival gang boss, wants Tetsu killed so it may be easier to intimidate Karuta. What follows is a very stylish Yakuza picture that shows influences from British gangster films of the era and somehow highlight the swinging sixties attitude of London but in Tokyo.
Much has been written about director Suzuki's dislike for Nikkatsu Company and Shomei Imamura who had been given large budgets for his films while Suzuki was given small budgets for B-movies that usually accompanied Imamura's films. He had started directing films in 1956 and by 1963, his films started to get very experimental and surreal. Nikkatsu Company lowered the budget and warned Suzuki against making a bizarre movie. Although, "Tokyo Drifter" is nowhere near the absurd, fragmented storyline that would become his next film "Branded to Kill," Suzuki manages to create a beautiful film along with cinematographer Shigeyoshi Mine. The colors seem to pop as if it were a comic book at times.
The film begins in black and white where the white is overblown and the blacks dark before bursting into color. The film is an exagerration of Warholian pop art and MGM musicals. The film suggests a satirical nature and parodies Japanese corporations and abuse of power.
A beautiful, stylish film that may leave you wanting to explore more Suzuki films.