Feb 3: *branded to kill*

Butterflies pinned artfully to the wall, the décor of Misako's apartment in Branded to Kill.

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.

branded_handout

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,

Hanada caches himself in an ad for cigarettes in Branded to Kill

sporting baby-blue suits that blend into sky color,

 

Tetsu, the baby-blue gangster in Tokyo Drifter.

Tokyo Tower peeps out from behind a tree in Tokyo Drifter.

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.

Shishidō Jo takes in the ambient vapors of the Paloma rice cooker.

 

the rabbit-hole of rice

Have you ever found yourself stumped, because you had a big bag of newly harvested brown rice, and didn’t know where you were going to mill it? Yeah, me too. It turns out that where rice, information culture, and task-specific Japanese gadgets meet–that place where I might explode!–they have a database for that.

Plug in the name of your village, town, etc...and see which of the 1048 public-access rice polishers may be near you.

Look, they even have one in Tokyo–or Mitaka city, to be exact…it’s apparently inside this mild-mannered discount furniture store.

"A" marks the spot here.

And this is what you might find.