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Tokyo Drifter (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)

 Unrated   Blu-ray
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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Product Description


Seijun Suzuki transforms the yakuza genre into a pop-art James Bond cartoon as directed by Jean-Luc Godard. The near-incomprehensible plot is almost negligible: hitman "Phoenix" Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari), a cool killer in dark shades who whistles his own theme song, discovers his own mob has betrayed his code of ethics and hits the road like a questing warrior, with not one but two mobs hot on his trail. In a world of shifting loyalties Tetsu is the last honorable man, a character who might have stepped out of a Jean-Pierre Melville film and into a delirious, color-soaked landscape of a Vincent Minnelli musical turned gangster war zone. The twisting narrative takes Tetsu from deliriously gaudy nightclubs, where killers hide behind every pillar, to the beautiful snowy plains of Northern Japan and back again, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. Suzuki opens the widescreen production in stark, high-contrast black and white with isolated eruptions of color that finally explode in a screen that glows in oversaturated hues, like a comic book come to life. His extreme stylization, jarring narrative leaps, and wild plot devices combine to create a pulp fiction on acid, equal parts gangster parody and post-modern deconstruction. Andrew Sarris described Sam Fuller's films as works that "have to be seen to be understood," a characterization that applies even more in this case. Mere description cannot capture the visceral effect of Suzuki's surreal cinematic fireworks. --Sean Axmaker

Product Description

In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Phoenix Tetsu’s attempt to go straight is squashed when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. This onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors got director Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill) in trouble with Nikkatsu studio heads, who were put off by his anything-goes, in-your-face aesthetic, equal parts Russ Meyer, Samuel Fuller, and Nagisa Oshima. Tokyo Drifter is a delirious highlight of the brilliantly excessive Japanese cinema of the sixties.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars another unusual gangster film April 13 2004
By Ted
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This film follows a retired killer named Tetsu who continues to receive threats from people and is asked to help take out a rival gang.
This film is shot in full color and has some interesting tricks done with that. There are parts where the color changes and 'differentials' of color from one side of the screen to the next. It is very difficult to describe but you know what they say. "a picture is worth a thousand words" I would suggest you see it for yourself if you are interested.
The film also has an excellent theme song which reminded me of the songs by Kyu Sakamoto, best known for his song "Ue O Muite Arouko" and known outside of Japan as "Sukiyaki."
There is also a 20 minute interview with director Seijun Suzuki on the DVD as a special feature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yakau no michi! Nov. 25 2000
A brilliant shabu (crystal meth) induced film about the Yakuza. The actual name of the film is Tokyo Nagaremono, and a true treat for the Yakuza obsessed (such as myself). I very much enjoy the plot, I don't like films that beat the story into your head. American cinema is designed for the mass amounts of idiots that make up this country, and if you find the plot hard to follow, you're an idiot...sorry, face it.
If you found mission impossible difficult to grasp, look elswhere for entertainment. If not, this is right up your alley. Brilliant, and I mean brilliant, lighting effects cascade across this widescreen masterpiece. It's cheesball overtones are met with a drive to push cinema farther, I wish modern directors were allowed to push like this.
It's occasionally comical, well photographed, story is a joy when you have time to spare, and some Pocky (available in the asian department at Safeway and Albertsons) to munch on. It is not fast paced, so enjoy on a rainy day. The character develpment is typical Japanese style, and cliche.
The theme song will stick, along with the vivid color changing effects (never done like this). Watch the giant donut looking thing change from yellow to red at the end, enjoy the not so subtle red illumination on the blinds when the gangs secretary is shot.
Most of all, enjoy the taste of Japan in the 60's, Yakuza style.
Highly recommended for the discerning viewer. One of few films to recieve a 9of 10 rating from myself.
Yakuza no michi!
P.S. Look out for NonStop by Sabu, a rare treat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The only reason Seijun Suzuki's "Toky Drifter" is getting four stars instead of five is because the story gets hokey and hard to follow at times. But what a wallop the visual fireworks and rapid-fire, jump-cut editing pack! "Tokyo Drifter" is easy to understand after viewing it a few times, but initially the story takes a back seat to Suzuki's inventive, French-New-Wave style of creating the images, which are breathtaking. "Phoenix," a reformed killer for the Yakuza, dreamily walks around Tokyo after quitting the racket, expecting to be executed. But when he is called back into duty to help rid the city of a rival gang, the film "drifts" into a surreal mix of equal parts Luis Bunuel, Sam Fuller and Jean Luc Godard. The action never lets up, and the film is a wonderfully funny mix of comedy and violence. The performers even break out into song at unexpected times, although the film is certainly not a musical. You just never know what to expect, which is what makes this little-seen film so much fun. "Tokyo Drifter" is unlike any film you have ever seen. It's a true original and Criterion presents it in a widescreen version that is terrific. Contains a rare, insightful interview with Japanese director Seijun Suzuki. In Japanese with English subtitles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars that BLUE suit! May 14 2002
By A Customer
Stylin' color, smooth story, catchy tune... and that blue suit with those white shoes! A thorough pleasure from start to finish. Also, fascinating interview with the director - gives a real insider view on the Japanese film studio business in the 50's.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Incomprehensible April 28 2002
By A Customer
While visually interesting, Tokyo Drifter lacks a cohesive story or any character development. It seems as if the editor removed the most important scenes. At one point in the movie the main character Tetsu has two hitmen in the back of the car he's driving and inexplicably escapes unscathed. The final outcome of the car scene is missing. This is just one of the many examples of poor editing. The subtitles on this DVD are equally disjointed and incomprehensible (laughably so, at times).
This movie is for students of Japanese film only.
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4.0 out of 5 stars compelling, challenging, narcotic action Sept. 8 2001
it begins black & white and bursts into hallucinogenic technicolor. avant-filmmaking, to be sure. the sets are color-coded and the action highly stylized. james bond on acid? yep. through a kaliedoscope, too. it's hard to follow, you may have to view it 3, 4... 30 times. but it's good. i love the hero, and the doomed secretary. it smacks of true 60's film style and feels a bit like a clint eastwood spaghetti western. if you've ever seen woody allen's "what's up, tigerlily?", this movie begs to be re-dubbed with corny dialogue, it's even got the pop-music interludes. (i hope i haven't offended the purists who hold this movie sacred). i have seen it on the independent film channel and it's that kind of experience - an action movie for the bohemian, artistic outsider.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy
Tokyo Drifter is stylish like Out of Sight, has a storyline less plausable than that of a John Woo movie. Read more
Published on June 23 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars the second best film of one of japan's best directors
I myself have an interest in japanese films of all genres anime to yakuza this film is probably a pinnacle in terms of the japanese yakuza genre shared with the films of kitano and... Read more
Published on March 24 2001 by "m_muirhead"
4.0 out of 5 stars Japanese hit man gets funky
This film has an unmistakably cool style. Shootouts on bare sets that look like relics of early Hollywood musicals. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2001 by Eugene Wei
5.0 out of 5 stars God damn, it is different!
When I saw the old auto going into the flames accompanied by theme song, I was caught. Not that the storyline is great like in Kurosawa movies - it is just standard gangster movie,... Read more
Published on May 17 2000 by "the_arpad"
4.0 out of 5 stars COLOURED SONGS
TOKYO DRIFTER has the charm of the arty movies of the sixties and, sometimes, is terribly modern in the Quarantinesque sense of the term. Overall, it offers a good cocktail ! Read more
Published on April 19 2000 by Daniel S.
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the review by amazon@fallingrock.net below
Unfortunately, the review by amazon@fallingrock.net at the bottom of this page is very inaccurate. The reviewer wrote, "Seijun Suzuki was one of the most popular directors in... Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2000 by jeong ming lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Tokyo Drifter blew me away!
I'm film student whose made a habit of seeing EVERYTHING. And when i saw Tokyo Drifter, i didn't know what to expect but the visuals and crazy mise-en-scene blew me away. Read more
Published on Sept. 21 1999
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