Friday, December 14, 2007

Norifumi Suzuki

I've been attempting to study the work of Norifumi Suzuki with continuing fascination. I'm still working out exactly which of his movies are available at all and where at Scarecrow Video they are hiding. I did actually suggest to their Customer Survey that he, along with Sergio Corbucci, should get a director's section, which would make my quest all the easier.

I'd actually quite like to see a full critical study of his work, which I doubt is forthcoming. If I had greater interest or skill in journalism and critical writing, I'd consider beginning the pursuit myself.

Certainly, I'm stuck with questions.

First, and possibly least interestingly, I can't make sense in my head of what the Japanese sound must be that would create the distinction between the English spelling of his name "Norifumi" and the less common but recurrent "Noribumi".

Then there's his obsessive rage at the Catholic Church specifically, and Western religion more generally. Not only in School of the Holy Beast, which is itself one glorious anti-Catholic screed, but also tucked in the corners of the majority of the movies I've seen. The later Star of David: Beauty Hunting seems to take a more ambiguous tone and even bookends on Bible quotes.

And the Bible connection leaves me wondering about whether he may have some responsibility for the writing of Karate Kiba (aka The Bodyguard, paired on this DVD with Sister Street Fighter, on which he is indeed credited as co-writer), which contains the extended version of Ezekiel 25:17 famously quoted in Pulp Fiction. Anyone know the screenwriting credits? I need to watch that movie again one of these days.

But mostly I'm transfixed by the manner in which his movies almost all seem to switch gears completely two or three times, and nearly always in a manner that feels seamless. Something like Killing Machine can start off with a scene that seems like it's heading to an ultra-violent revenge movie, but have the body of the movie slide back and forth between a post-war melodrama and the story of the building of a dojo and violent troubles with surrounding locals.

Shogun's Ninja never makes a major genre shift, but makes a number of odd tonal shifts, including one in which star Hiroyuki Sanada has a major Flashdance-of-rage sequence as he prepares to go into battle.

And I haven't even gotten into say the Pinky Violence movies I reviewed before, and would like at some point to write more complete evaluations/re-evaluations of.

Somewhere in there is a story, though. A man who lived a life, who read books, who saw movies, and all of these things led him to make these movies. He didn't end up being necessarily the greatest director of all time, but perhaps something just as interesting, a director of consistently intriguing and original movies.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kimberly from Cinebeats to pointing me to Stars and Sukeban, which details some further information on Suzuki as well as offering some very exciting news regarding future US releases of his work including some very promising special features, including a commentary for Star of David: Beauty Hunting.


Cinebeats said...

I'm a Norifumi fan as well (obviously!) and I really enjoyed reading this. I've only managed to see 5 of his films, but I've found things to enjoy in them all. My favorites so far are easily Sex & Fury, Girl Boss Guerilla and School of the Holy Beast!

Do you read the Outcast Cinema blog? It's a terrific blog and they recently announced that a bunch of his films will be coming out on DVD next year, which I'm really looking forward to!

Neil Sarver said...

Thank you. I have not previously read that blog, but I will be from now on. That news was completely worthy of including as an update to the original post!

Neil Sarver said...

By the way, I agree on those titles being among his best, although Star of David would hold a place on there as well now. Girl Boss Guerilla is one that I definitely think more highly of it than I did at the time of my original review.

I'm terribly excited that there will be a commentary for that in the spring... not to mention an extended interview. That begins to offer some of what I was idly hoping for with the post in the first place.

And I must say, "logboy" takes the fanboy anti-double-dip bitch to crazy new extremes. Frankly, I thought I'd seen it all. For me, I'll be glad to be able to recommend the movie to people, although certainly not everyone, with the knowledge they'll be able to put it on their Netflix queue and not have to purchase an import copy.


Cinebeats said...

I still need to see Star of David, and thanks to your positive comments about it I'll try to check it out soon!

Jeremy Richey said...

I have just recently staarted to get into this mans films...I find him amazing, combative and powerful...I'll look forward to reading more on him and seeing more of his works...

Neil Sarver said...

Kimberly, well, I guess it should be easier to track down some time soon, so that's pretty cool.

Jeremy, I couldn't agree more.

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