Seijun Suzuki, the celebrated Japanese director behind such cult films as Tokyo Drifter and Branded To Kill, has died at the age of 93. He died February 13 in Tokyo, with the cause of death given as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Suzuki was largely famed for matching pop art visuals and pulp stories and his work influenced directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Baz Luhrmann and Wong Kar-Wai.
Born in Tokyo in 1923, Suzuki served in Japan’s meteorological corps in World War II before joining Shochiku studio as an assistant director in 1948. After failing to launch his director’s career, he joined a newly reopened Nikkatsu in 1954. There, he directed a host of economic but highly stylized B-movies, which were variations on the yakuza genre, a type of Japanese film that focused on organized crime syndicates.
As well as 1960s cult classics such as Tokyo Drifter and Branded To Kill, Suzuki directed Detective Bureau: 23, Go To Hell Bastards and Youth Of The Beast. Unafraid to push boundaries and experiment through use of surreal and colorful imagery, Nikkatsu soon demanded the director tone down his work in a bid to keep costs low.
Suzuki was fired after Branded To Kill, which starred Jo Shishido as a hitman who takes an impossible job, flopped. He sued the studio for unfair dismissal and won an out of court settlement but was effectively banned from the biz for a decade.
He began his return to the film arena with a trilogy of ghost stories called Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za and Yumeji, which were well-received in Japan and awarded Japan Academy prizes.
In 2001, he made a Branded To Kill remake called Pistol Opera and in 2005 he made the musical Princess Raccoon starring House Of Flying Daggers’ Zhang Ziyi.