Knocking around the cinephile blogosphere this morning, I happened upon the sad news, via Toronto Japanese cinema maven Chris Magee, that Takeo Kimura has passed on at age 91. Now, if you don’t know Mr. Kimura’s name immediately, don’t feel too bad. I didn’t recognize it either. However, when I found that he was Seijun Suzuki‘s art director, I had to take notice.
Now, if you don’t know Mr. Suzuki’s name right of the bat, don’t feel bad either. It just perhaps means you’re not a movie geek with a strong interest in Asian genre cinema of the 1960s and beyond. The world probably has enough of those anyway. What it doesn’t have enough of, however, is filmmakers with Suzuki’s boldness and off-kilter but (often) entertaining sensibility. A acknowledged influence on Quentin Tarantino (whose birthday this is, by the way), Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar-Wai and probably many others. His best films, like the truly bizarre and compelling black and white “Branded to Kill” play a bit like Sam Fuller thrown into a cuisinart with David Lynch and Jean-Luc Godard. The color ones are weirder.
However, film is a collaborative media, once you seen one of his films, or even a moment from them, you’ll understand why Suzuki’s art director would be his most crucial collaborator. We’ll move backwards in time, starting with a clip for 2001’s “Pistol Opera,” also co-written by Kimura, which is not an everyday contribution for a production designer to make.
Its reputation is somewhat mixed to say the least (I have yet to see it myself) and ordinary coherence in storytelling is not really Suzuki’s strong-suit in any case. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that what you’re about to say is not something you see everyday, not without the right mix of rare herbs and mushrooms, anyhow and that’s primarily thanks to the late Mr. Kimura.
I’m still trying to work out how that film is supposed to be a remake of sorts of “Branded to Kill,” as that was an absurd but relatively low-key film about a troubled hitman with a sexual attachment to the smell of rice being cooked (really), but there you go. More to come.