Suzuki Seijun (鈴木清順)
Seijun SUZUKI (May 24, 1923 -) is a movie director and actor. His real name is Seitaro SUZUKI. Suzuki is the older brother of the former NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Service) announcer Kenji SUZUKI. Suzuki became well-known as a director under contract with Nikkatsu, introducing various actors including Akira KOBAYASHI, Hideki TAKAHASHI (an actor) and Jo SHISHIDO to perform the leading roles in his films. "Koroshi no rakuin" (Brand of murder) received international acclaim not only as a general movie but also as a cult film. In the films such as "Zigeunerweisen" (the movie), "Kagero-za" and "Yumeji," Suzuki captured profound and beautiful screen images.
His unique visual expression is known as the 'Seijun aesthetics.'
Brief personal history
In 1923, Suzuki was born the eldest son of a draper in Nihonbashi. Not long after he was born, Suzuki's home was devastated by the Great Kanto Earthquake. The family subsequently moved from Nihonbashi to the downtown area.
In 1943, soon after starting at Hirosaki High School (in the old system) (the present Hirosaki University), Suzuki went to war under the student mobilization order. Suzuki was a military trainee officer when the war ended.
After being discharged from military service, Suzuki graduated from the former Hirosaki High School in 1948. Suzuki failed the entrance exams to Tokyo University but was accepted to the post of assistant director with Shochiku. Suzuki and the other successful candidates who joined the company in the same year including Ko NAKAHIRA, Buichi SAITO, Kazuo INOUE, Chisato IKOMA, Zenzo MATSUYAMA, Yugoro IMAI and Tadashi ARIMOTO formed the Akahachikai (meaning that the eight of them will embarrass themselves).
In 1954, Suzuki transferred to Nikkatsu as an assistant director under contract. During the filming of "Kuroi Ushio" (The Black Tide), Suzuki met the artistic director Takeo KIMURA who became the key influence for the development of the Seijun Aesthetics.
In 1956, Suzuki made his directorial debut with "Toast to the port, Victory to our hands" (with Toshiya FUJITA being the third assistant director).
In 1958, Suzuki changed his name to Seijun when he made "The Beauty of the Underworld."
In 1966, Suzuki and other eight people including Takeo KIMURA formed a screenwriter's society called Guruhachiro.
In 1968, Suzuki was fired from Nikkatsu by the president Kyusaku HORI who was displeased with "Koroshi no rakuin" (The Brand of Murder). Suzuki immediately filed a complaint against Nikkatsu on the grounds of wrongful dismissal (which was settled out of court in 1971).
See the Conference for the United Front against the Seijun Suzuki Matter for details.
In 1981, Suzuki won the Jury's Special Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for "Zigeunerweisen" (the movie).
In 2003, Suzuki won the Grand Prize of the Oribe Awards.
In 2005, "Operetta tanuki goten" (Princess Raccoon) was selected as one of the special entries to the Cannes International Film Festival.
After Suzuki's joining Shochiku, the top director of that company Keisuke KINOSHITA who was well-known for his refined stylishness said, 'I don't want that grubby guy for my assistant director.'
Indeed, Suzuki never worked with Keisuke KINOSHITA as his assistant director.
During his assistant director years at Shochiku, Suzuki tended to work with people such as a low-profile director (Tsuruo IWAMA) and eccentric assistant directors who were referred to as the '3 emperors of Ofuna.'
Suzuki frequently worked with Masahiro SHINODA.
Suzuki decided to move to Nikkatsu, enticed by the director Katsumi NISHIKAWA who said, 'Nikkatsu pays 3 times the salary that you make at Shochiku.'
The nihilistic ending scene of "Tokyo Drifters" was met with scathing criticism from the Nikkatsu executives and Suzuki did the ending scene over in hurry. The film prior to the revision does not exist. In the following year, drawing the wrath of the company president with "Koroshi no rakuin" (The Brand of Murder), Suzuki was fired from Nikkatsu.
After being dismissed from Nikkatsu, Suzuki's wife and friends supported his livelihood and professional existence, and he returned to the movie industry with "Hiren Monogatari" produced by Ikki KAJIWARA. Suzuki's movie "Zigeunerweisen" produced by Genjiro ARATO was highly acclaimed not only in Japan but also overseas. "Zigeunerweisen" swept prizes including the first place in the Kinema Junpo Best Ten Films list (followed by Akira KUROSAWA's "Kagemusha" (The Double)).
In 1990, Suzuki made a guest appearance on the live news show "What's New" on Eisei Channel (the present Asahi Newstar), the communications satellite station of the Asahi Shimbun Group. In the foregoing show, Suzuki made a statement that he had been developing his own style of aesthetics which later came to be referred to as the Seijun Aesthetics from the time of his directorial debut contradicting the generally accepted explanation back then that it suddenly blossomed with the film "Youth of the Beast." Additionally, a collection of outstanding shots under various themes including 'cherry blossoms,' 'abyss' and 'ghosts' as selected by Suzuki was shown during that show.
In 1991, there was a special program on Seijun SUZUKI on "CINEMA Daisuki" (we love movies), a late night TV show on the Yomiuri TV covering the movie-related matters, featuring footages from his films made between his days at Nikkatsu and his directorial come back and a rare interview given by Suzuki in which he candidly discussed various matters including those films.
Suzuki wrote the scripts for 'Carried Away with Disguise,' Episode 13 of the 1984 animated TV show "Lupin III, Part 3" adding a decidedly different and mysterious touch to the show.
Seijun made special appearance back to back in films "I Can't Wait Until Dark" (1975) and "Hypocrites" (1980) made by Kazuki OMORI. Thereafter, cameo appearance by Seijun SUZUKI became something of a vogue among young directors who admired Seijun whereby he ended up appearing in numerous films and TV shows.