Tag Archives: Nikkatsu

Where to begin with Shinji Somai

Critic Shigehiko Hasumi once suggested that Japanese filmmaker Shinji Somai – who died young aged 53 in 2001, after directing 13 features – “is the missing link between the end of the studio system of Japan and the rise of independent filmmaking”. In their compassionate depictions of loneliness and alienation, you can certainly see the influence of Somai’s films in the works of several younger directors who followed, including Shunji Iwai (All About Lily Chou-Chou) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse).

So why is Somai relatively unknown in the west? It’s all down to the mysteries of international distribution. For whatever reason, none of Somai’s films got released in the UK, with opportunities to see them relegated to festival appearances or one-off repertory screenings. Even a particularly high interest in contemporary Japanese cinema in Britain in the early 2000s – the time of the J-horror boom – didn’t result in distribution for Somai’s final features, Wait and See (1998) and Kaza-hana (2000).

In recent years, the Edinburgh International Film Festival showcased a full retrospective of his work in 2012, while Moving (1993) was part of the touring programme in support of Mark Cousins’ A Story of Children and Film (2013). At the time of writing, we’ve just seen the first ever home-video outing for any of Somai’s features in the west: Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981). It’s hopefully a sign of good things to come, as Somai’s CV includes some of the finest Japanese films of the 1980s and 90s…

Full feature for the BFI

Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years. Vol. 1 – Seijun Rising: The Youth Movies

The recently departed Japanese director Seijun Suzuki has had a resurgence of late in the world of British home distribution. Though a couple of his more famous films – like pop art classic Tokyo Drifter – got put out with middling transfers by small companies in the early aughts, the last few years have seen labels like Eureka’s Masters of Cinema, and, particularly, Arrow Video, raid the man’s archives for some remastered pleasures…

Full review for The Skinny

Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)

In 1968, Japanese director Seijun Suzuki saw his long-standing contract with the Nikkatsu studio terminated for repeatedly turning routine potboiler scripts he was given into increasingly surreal, visually uninhibited gangster movies, such as avant-garde masterworks Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. 1963’s Youth of the Beast rarely reaches quite the same fantastic heights of kaleidoscopic imagery, but within it the seeds of Suzuki’s later, greater madness were sown…

Full review for The Skinny