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Life Is Short: Nikkatsu Studios at 100

Saturday, October 27, 2012
8:10 p.m. Elegy to Violence
Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1966)

(Kenka ereji). Regarded as one of Suzuki's best films, Elegy to Violence is Suzuki's scathing portrait of the militarism that, in the thirties, sent young men like himself to war, having been steeped in a belief in the mutability of all things so that they might better accept their own deaths. For Suzuki, this cruel absurdity was a source of humor—perhaps the source of the wry humor in his films—and that is nowhere better demonstrated than in the tale of Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi), a punk who realizes the ridiculousness of his outré violence while he revels in it. Nanbu, a high-school student and militant ideologue, is trapped (kicking and screaming) between conflicting ideologies. Moreover, he is torn between the purity of his love for the Catholic girl Michiko (Junko Asano) and his sexual desire for her. His restlessness finds expression in street brawls that he orchestrates like some brash movie director, staged by Suzuki with typical high style and humor. Like a cartoon—or a Shaw Brothers kung-fu extravaganza—this violence parodies itself, much as Suzuki saw the mounting deaths on the battlefield as reflections of their own absurdity.

• Written by Kaneto Shindo, based on a novel by Takashi Suzuki. Photographed by Kenji Hagiwara. With Hideki Takahashi, Junko Asano, Yusuke Kawazu, Mitsuo Kataoka. (86 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)