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Cinema Japan: A Wreath for Madame Kawakita

Friday, November 7, 2008
8:30 p.m. Branded to Kill
Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1967)

(Koroshi no rakuin). Hanada Goro, “Number 3 Killer,” is hired by gang boss Yabuhara to undertake a mission fraught with danger, while Yabuhara busies himself with Hanada’s wife. Three assassinations later, the sharpshooting but insecure No. 3 (Jo Shishido) would seem to be moving up on the menu until he bungles a shoot because a butterfly settles on his telescopic sight. Branded to Kill goes all the way with Seijun Suzuki’s brand of eroticism and cruel humor, much of it at the expense of the hero. Hanada, for example, is able to become sexually aroused only when sniffing boiling rice, while his relationship with the missus is more like high stakes than high times. Then there’s the true love interest, a female straight out of Detour who travels light, with white convertible, portable rainstorm, and death wish. “Things happen” is the conclusion of this absurdist thriller from Nikkatsu studio’s enfant terrible–in-residence.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Hachiro Guryu. Photographed by Kazue Nagatsuka. With Jo Shishido, Mariko Ogawa, Annu Mari, Koji Nanbara. (91 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, ’Scope, 35mm, Permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)