Quick-Thoughts: Seijun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast (1963)

Seijun Suzuki Marathon Part I of V

Like Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), this is a neat spin on one of my all-time favorite action movies Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961). It plays too with the inevitable backfire when recklessly seeking justice, this time via the classic search for vengeance. Another self-important with a special set of skills ultimately pins two crime organizations against one another, causing chaos and mayhem to all, further exclaiming the myth of protagonist even in dislike towards these sort of iniquitous settings. Nobody is a victim, and everybody might just be a villain. At a definite, all are prone backstabbers and liars, with glimpses of a fruitful relationship for any of them remaining to be but glimpses. A bleak world it is, aye?

As I hoped, I’m really taken aback by Seijun Suzuki’s style so far. A 1963 release date is already enough to convince me how new his level of composition and blocking must’ve been for the genre — the intense color / light isolating in the set pieces and the single-take shot size changing from some seriously meticulous camera movements are particularly notable examples. Not to mention the quirky (therefore at least memorable) character personalities, how modest the work is when structuring its reserved amount of action sequences, and the engaging experience it gives us being in this main character’s tricky situation that wittily seems to only get trickier as trusts begin to dangle, plus it’s all encompassed by a mystery! The scenes where a prostitute druggy hallucinates her boss galloping off into an unsure distance, a sadist whips his betrayer into the hills, one of our lead’s fingernails is dug under by a knife, and when he slyly shuts the door on a deviant who had just called the other suspect in the room’s mom a “whore” are moments that made me go, “yeah this can be excruciating to watch, but to hell if it ain’t what crime cinema was meant to do.” 

Verdict: B

Seijun Suzuki Ranked

“Youth of the Beast” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

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