[ENTERTAINMENT]Crash course on a kamikaze filmmaker

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Crash course on a kamikaze filmmaker

"The power to construct something is actually what ends up destroying it, too. In the end, what's left in our memory is not construction but destruction," said the Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki years ago. Indeed, Suzuki is a destroyer; he has made a living by blasting through movie industry barriers and forging ahead to create new styles. Now he is known as a master of the Japanese nouvelle vague movement.?

With his bizarre, flamboyant, nihilistic and humorous films, Suzuki stirs up controversy while attracting enthusiastic followers and adoring critics. Among Suzuki's acolytes are Quentin Tarantino, John Woo and David Lynch, who have all acknowledged their inspirational debt to Suzuki. Also, Jim Jarmusch, the American director of "Stranger Than Paradise" (1984), remade Suzuki's "Branded to Kill" (1967) as the 1999 action and drama film "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai." Suzuki's latest film, "Pistol Opera" (2001), was highly regarded at last year's Venice International Film Festival.

Suzuki's films are less known in Korea than in other advanced countries due to the ban here on Japanese cultural products that was lifted recently. Now, though, movie buffs get their chance to catch up. "Elegy to Violence, a Retrospective on Seijun Suzuki" will be held at the Artsonje Center from Monday to Feb. 25 and at Cinematheque Busan March 2-9. Suzuki himself will be in Seoul next week; he will lecture and answer audience questions Wednesday and Thursday.?

Born in 1923 in Tokyo, Suzuki lived through Japan's war years. In his early 20s Suzuki saw combat in the navy. Instead of perceiving the war as horrible, though, he described it as "comical."

After kicking off his filmmaking career, he focused on yakuza, or gangster, films.?In the 1960s and 1970s, his imaginative black humor and original cinematography baffled censors and film companies but pleased viewers.?By the 1980s Suzuki had progressed to more artistic films, and gained more critical approval.?His 1980 film, "Zigeunerweisen" ("Gypsy Air"), the first of his aesthetic and outrageous "Taisho Trilogy," earned the Special Jury's Award at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival. If his gangster films in the 1960s drew attention by breaking established rules and using innovative cinematic devices, his later films touched on deeper themes like nostalgia and romanticism.

The upcoming retrospective will include 15 of the director's movies, including "Youth of the Beast" (1963), "Tokyo Drifter" (1966) and "Branded to Kill" (1967). The movies will have Korean subtitles, but not English. Four films will be screened each day, except for Wednesday and Thursday when Suzuki will meet with audiences. Tickets for a single movie cost 5,000 won ($4), or a book of 10 tickets can be had for 40,000 won.

For more information, call the Artsonje Center at 02-595-6002 or the Culture Academy Seoul at 02-533-3316 (Korean service only).?For further screening schedules, visit www.cinephile.co.kr.

by Chun Su-jin

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