The only thing more baroque than a Suzuki Seijun film is, possibly, a plot summary of a Suzuki Seijun film. The “rice films” series got off to a successful start last night. This is the handout I put together to try to impose a little story-order on Branded to Kill.
To introduce it, I talked a little bit about the rash of novels and films in the mid-1960s that dwelled on the issue of white-collar men disappearing…the “missing person problem,” just walking right off the map. Imamura Shōhei’s A Man Vanishes (Ningen jōhatsu 人間蒸発) is the classic cinema verité example, and Abe Kōbo’s many stories about men who turn into sticks, or live in boxes, or who walk off into sand dunes also qualify.
Suzuki’s films cross over because their protagonists are always trying to camouflage themselves into the landscape–whether appropriating its pop art architecture as places to cache themselves,
sporting baby-blue suits that blend into sky color,
or obsessing on the ambient smell of rice as it evaporates into thin air, as does the killer in Branded to Kill. The title of A Man Vanishes, in Japanese, is actually more like “a man vaporizes,” drawing on the properties of water as it transforms states and sublimates.