When Japanese New Wave bad boy Seijun Suzuki delivered this brutal, hilarious, and visually inspired masterpiece to the executives at his studio (Nikkatsu), he was promptly fired. Branded to Kill tells the ecstatically bent story of a yakuza assassin with a fetish for sniffing steamed rice (the chipmunk-cheeked superstar Joe Shishido) who botches a job and ends up a target himself. Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill is a cinematic masterpiece that transcends its genre. It is about as close to traditional Yakuza pictures as Godard’s Alphaville is to science fiction. This is Suzuki at his most extreme—the flabbergasting pinnacle of his sixties pop-art aesthetic.
The film grew a strong following, which expanded overseas in the 1980s, and has established itself as a cult classic. Film critics and enthusiasts now regard it as an absurdist masterpiece. It has been cited as an influence by filmmakers such as Jim Jarmusch, John Woo, Chan-wook Park and Quentin Tarantino. Jarmusch listed it as his favourite hitman film, alongside Le Samouraï (also 1967) and thanked Suzuki in the screen credits of his own hitman film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999). Most notably, Jarmusch mirrored a scene in which the protagonist kills a target by shooting up from a basement through a sink drain.
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