Friday, June 28, 2013
Tokyo Drifter is an all-out open assault on pulp cinema, less an exemplar of low-budget B-movie craft than a savage rebuke of tough-guy gangster films and pop culture in general. Seijun Suzuki, the avant-trash auteur, elevates the material through his sheer contempt for it. The pop-art gloss of the film is beauty with an edge, the seductive shine of a glittering blade or polished bullet. Every frame exhudes tension, from the disjointed editing and flattened compositions to the hysterical shrieking of the colours. Money and power rule everything while honour is dead, and presumably Suzuki is talking about modern capitalism and not just his day job (he was just two years away from being bounced from Nikkatsu Studios for making one too many incoherent pop-art provocations like this). In this world of violence and neon, titular drifter Tetsu risks self-destruction through an old-fashioned sense of loyalty. Duly chastised, he swings so far the other way that he severs all human connection rather than risk being hurt again, or as he sneeringly tells his lover, he can’t walk with a woman at his side. Commerce corrupts all human bonds, and pop culture provides a front for the sick system. A secretary giggles at comic books while mobsters wheel and deal around her. Teenagers dance continually in a frenzied bebop delirium as bullets whizz by. People are never happier than when discussing their hair dryers.