American Cinematheque is presenting the early works of director Seijun Suzuki (1923-2017) at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood.
Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m.:
“Satan’s Town” (Akuma no Machi), 1956, 79 minutes. Suzuki’s third film, and his first to feature gangsters as protagonists, focuses on a boss and his henchman after they escape from prison. Suzuki shows his promise through cleverly constructed editing and bold compositions, particularly in the film’s murder scenes, of which there are many.
“Eight Hours of Terror” (Hachijikan no Kyoufu), 1957, 78 minutes. After a typhoon stops a train on its track, the passengers are forced to take a bus through the countryside. To make matters worse, some escaped criminals try to hijack the bus. This is Suzuki’s riff on one of his favorite films, John Ford’s “Stagecoach,” as well as one of his best early thrillers.
Introduction by Chris D, author of “Gun and Sword: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films, 1955-1980.”
Friday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m.:
“Branded to Kill” (Koroshi no Rakuin), 1967, 91 minutes. When Japanese New Wave bad boy Suzuki delivered this brutal, hilarious and visually inspired masterpiece to the executives at his studio, he was promptly fired. “Branded to Kill” tells the ecstatically bent story of a yakuza assassin with a fetish for sniffing steamed rice (the chipmunk-cheeked superstar Joe Shishido) who botches a job and ends up a target himself. This is Suzuki at his most extreme — the flabbergasting pinnacle of his 1960s pop-art aesthetic.
“Born Under Crossed Stars” (Akutaro-den: Warui Hoshi no Shita demo), 1965, 98 minutes. Jukichi sells milk door-to-door to pay for school but his father secretly gambles away the money to the yakuza, leaving Jukichi to fight them off. A hilarious coming-of-age film and one of Suzuki’s most underrated.
Saturday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m.:
“Tokyo Drifter” (Tokyo Nagaremono), 1966, 82 minutes. In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Tetsu’s attempt to go straight is thwarted when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. Suzuki’s onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors is equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller and Nagisa Oshima — an anything-goes, in-your-face rampage. “Tokyo Drifter” is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the 1960s.
“The Flowers and the Angry Wave” (Hana to Dotou), 1964, 92 minutes. Suzuki’s classic spin on the traditional ninkyo yakuza genre, with Akira Kobayashi (“Black Tight Killers”) as a young antihero in a coal carters union in the turn-of-the-20th-century Taisho era up against a rival evil gang. He is also caught between the virginal Chieko Matsubara and the more worldly Naoko Kubo. Midway through the saga, his face is slightly disfigured, something that must have wreaked havoc with the sensibilities of matinee-idol/pop star Kobayashi’s younger female fanbase. Also with Tamio Kawaji as a sword-wielding assassin in Zorro cape and hat.
Sunday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m.:
“Everything Goes Wrong” (Subete ga Kurutteru), 1960, 72 minutes. With its dynamic camerawork and deftly intercut storylines, this little-known gem from Suzuki blends the energy of the pulpiest juvenile-delinquent flicks with the angst of “Rebel Without a Cause.” Disillusioned by his mother, Jirp (Tamio Kawaji) takes to the streets with friends, their petty crimes gradually escalating to a devastating climax. Yoshiko Nezu is mesmerizing as the girl smitten with the wayward Jiro.
“Fighting Delinquents” (Kutabare Gurentai), 1960, 80 minutes. This is Suzuki’s first film starring teen idol Wada Kōji, who plays a young construction worker whose wacky antics annoy the stiff-necked adults of his town until he takes on a crooked real-estate developer and saves the community. It’s also Suzuki’s first color film, and he paints the town red, as it were.
Admission: $12 general, $8 for Cinematheque members, $10 for seniors (65+) and students with valid ID. For tickets and more information, go to: www.americancinemathequecalendar.com/egyptian_theatre_events