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Youth of the Beast
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Genre:Art/Foreign
Year:1963
Rating:NR
Cast:Seijun Suzuki, Jo Shishido

Youth of the Beast marked a turning point in director Seijun Suzuki's career. No longer content to just crank out production-line gangster films, here Suzuki starts to assert his own voice. The plot is fairly typical for the genre: chipmunk-cheeked Jo Shishido stars as ex-cop Jo Mizuno, who muscles his way into the shadowy world of the yakuza. He gets hired by the clan that killed his former partner while double-dealing with the clan's rival. Yet the plot contains some particularly Suzuki-like details. Why is Jo's partner more interested in guns than in women? Why does Hide, the notorious gay gangster, always slash the face of anyone who mentions his mother? What does this all have to do with the Takeshita School of Knitting? Suzuki's audacious style heightens the absurdity and artifice of both the genre and the medium with pop art colors, loopy camera placements, and bizarre, dream-like images: a feather-clad dancer silently struts behind soundproofed two-way mirrors, a pink dust storm serendipitously occurs while a pimp whips a junkie prostitute. The film is a dizzying visual feast, whose tone Seijun Suzuki would amplify to absurdist heights in his later films, Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967). Jonathan Crow

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