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Tokyo Drifter
BLU-RAY disk
01.10.2012 By: Mathew Plale
Tokyo Drifter order download
Director:
Seijun Suzuki

Actors:
Tetsuya Watari
Ryuji Kita
Chieko Matsubara

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A former Yakuza member (Watari) who is forced into hiding continues to find himself linked to a criminal past.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The drifter is Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari), muscled out of his surroundings after the Yakuza gang he was a member of disbands and a rival mob fails to lure him to their side. Though he should be more skeptical, Tetsu remains loyal to his former boss, Kurata (Ryuji Kita) who tangles himself in a shady real estate deal.

This sets Tetus “the Phoenix” as something of a nomadic figure, an old west staple plopped in the middle of Tokyo, on the dodge but too proud to run. The plot of Tokyo Drifter (1966) is so familiar and stale that it’s easy to grow tired of the ideas and themes, which screenwriter Kouhan Kawauchi fails to expand on, occasionally boring the audience.

But then, maybe director Seijun Suzuki didn’t necessarily intend any of it--the story or main character--to have any depth. They’re both lifted from American cinema and used as launching points to display Suzuki’s interests at the time. Suzuki was fully aware of the ‘60s, mashing James Bond style and Andy Warhol art onto the canvas with no care as to what the studio or audience would think.

As such, Tokyo Drifter is a notable product of its time. Set to a jazzy score, Godard-style editing and vibrant blasts of color (inspired equally by the pop movement and MGM musical stages), Tokyo Drifter escapes the confines of what the script laid out and stands as one of Suzuki’s most praised works.
THE EXTRAS
Seijun Suzuki and Masami Kuzuu (12:12): In this 2011 interview, director Suzuki and assistant director Kuzuu reflect on the production of Tokyo Drifter.

Seijun Suzuki (20:12): This 1997 interview was recorded during a Suzuki retrospective by the Japanese Foundation and the Los Angeles Filmforum.

Trailer

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 12-page booklet featuring an essay titled “Catch My Drift” by film critic Howard Hampton.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Despite the recycled plot and lack of character depth, Seijun Suzuki’s Tokyo Drifter is something to be admired. With rich blasts of color and nods to Warhol and Godard, the style greatly enhances what little the script brought. The Criterion Collection did a superb job at upgrading the 1999 DVD, so fans should have no hesitation to trade that edition in.
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