Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Thoughts on: Time and Space Are Nonsense: The Films of Seijun Suzuki by Tom Vick

 Being someone who digs about piles of Japanese cinema looking for interesting titles to watch and books to help me understand the medium I was quite happy to hear of the publication of this book. When I ran into a copy of the book at the Berkeley Art Museum shop I bought it immediately.

Over the years I have read about Suzuki Seijun on occasion and was curious to learn more. I rate books by how much I learn from them and this one I rate very high. From the beginning I found material that put Suzuki's work in the context of the industry of the time his early films were made. Mainly this was that of Nikkatsu's churning out B films for double bills. Suzuki got in trouble several times for his efforts to make his films more interesting by using new and experimental effects, effects that could be jarring to the viewer, and wre disliked by his boss. I should say delightfully jarring as I have found myself more than once holding by breath as I focused on what was being presented to me on the screen. The book gave me a better perspective regarding the context of the films and how they contrasted to the works of other directors of the time. Also covered is his firing and blacklisting, successful lawsuit against Nikkatsu and popularity among members of cinema clubs at the time.

I was also highly delighted to see a section on the influence of kabuki in Suzuki's films. I have long felt that kabuki has had a strong influence in Japanese cinema, after all many of the early actors were kabuki actors and for many years onnagata played the roles of women in Japanese silent cinema. Vick's book dealt with the specific influence on Suzuki, who is a fan of kabuki theater, and other directors. There is even a reference to kabuki influences in Shinoda Masahiro's The Scandalous Adventures of Buraikan, itself a film based on a kabuki play by Kawatake Mokuami.

Then the book goes further than most of what I have read, going into the films made after Suzuki's return to the director's chair in 1977. It is these films where Suzuki had greater freedom to experiment with the structure of cinema, narration, and visual presentation and produce unique works.

If you are interested in cinema, Time and Space Are Nonsense is a book I feel you should strongly consider reading, even buying to add to your own library.

Now on to the next book in my to read pile. Edo Kabuki in Transition.