When it comes to a country laying claim on film genres, America typically gets credit for the gangster category. Our obsession with the hitman for hire goes back to the bounty hunters of classic Westerns and carries on up through the work of Scorsese, Tarantino, and beyond. In the 30’s and 40’s, entire studios were carried on the back of the gangster genre. With all due credit to Hollywood for establishing a successful formula, they haven’t exactly been the ones to test its limits. That honor goes almost exclusively to foreign directors, and in this case Seijun Suzuki, director of 1967’s masterpiece of the hitman drama, Branded to Kill. It’s a film so brilliant that, after submitting it to the studio, Suzuki was blacklisted for ten years.
Wayyy back in September I started what was intended to be an ongoing column entitled “Required Viewing”, with my opinions on Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. I intended to do reviews of things on the viewing list for my film class at the time, but the realization that said film class was kind of a joke soured me on the idea of extracurricular writing that might tie into it. I think a better usage of the column will be to talk about films that I see which fill me with the sudden urge to show them to everyone I know, and to expound on the viewing experiences that really get under my skin in one way or another. Tonight, for your reading pleasure, I’ll be kicking off this retooling of the concept with 1932’s Island of Lost Souls.