Branded to Kill. Film Review

DIRECTOR: Seijun Suzuki
SCREENPLAY: Hachiro Guryu
STARRING: Joe Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Annu Mari, Mariko Ogawa
FORMAT: Blu-ray/DVD Combo
Reviewed by Guy Adams

The word ‘delirious’ is the adjective of choice in Arrow’s sleeve notes for Suzuki’s movie and it’s a good one. Ostensibly, the story of a hit man’s fall from grace it’s not a movie that feels any compelling need for realism. The acting veers from film noir cool to kabuki broad, it features animation, surreal staging, a dream-logic plot and anything else that took Suzuki’s fancy. It should be a mess, and yet, the film is so bizarre, so —yes —delirious, that it effectively lives in its own world and drags us along with it.

Joe Shishido, the movie’s star, underwent cheek augmentation surgery ten years prior to the making of BRANDED TO KILL, apparently because he felt his features were too bland to gain him roles. He cuts a strange figure, with his puffy, unnatural face, sniffing boiled rice (the character is turned on by the smell) and flinging himself from one set piece to another. In any other film he would stand out like a sore —indeed swollen —thumb, here he fits right in.

Not a great hit on release, the film has nonetheless proved influential, both in Japan and Hollywood and is certainly a compelling and hypnotic watch.

Thankfully, given the movie is such an eclectic, visual experience, the restoration is lovely and crisp and the (at the time contentious but now lauded) jazz score pops along wonderfully.

Special features include TRAPPED IN LUST, a rather band ‘roman porno’remake, interviews with Suzuki and Shishido, original trailers and an expansive booklet written by Jasper Sharp.