Some terrible news to report from Japanese media today; Seijun Suzuki, acclaimed director of Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill, and dozens other film, is reported to have passed away on February 13th at the age of 93. The cause of death is reported to be from pulmonary heart disease. Known primarily for his work with Nikkatsu, he would direct over 40 years in his career and act in a number of productions later in his life.
In my opinion, Seijun Suzuki is one of the absolute greats of cinema period, let alone Japanese film. His fearlessness in his work and his feud with Hori Kyusaku, former president of Nikkatsu, are legendary. Offering a true visual and artistic eye to his films, many of his works were not well received in their day though subsequent revivals and the eye of the Western world’s cinema aficionados have seen his films in a much more positive light. While it is easy to put the likes of Kurosawa, Naruse, or Izo at the top of Japanese film reverence, I truly believe I have never thought so highly of a director as Suzuki. He was prolific, visionary, and changed Japanese film to so much more through his work and loyal stable of actors like Hideki Takahashi and Jo Shishido. Getting older is never easy in a lot of ways, but probably one of the worst is seeing your heroes grow old and pass on. If it is any consolation, Mr. Suzuki has delivered some of the absolute best and most memorable cinematic experiences in my life and while he won’t be involved in film anymore, I’ll continue to marvel and admire his prolific and impressive body of work for many years to come. Rest in Peace.