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Friday, June 18, 2010

SHUNPU DEN / THE STORY OF A PROSTITUTE (1965)

Seijun Suzuki, that incorrigible artistic thorn in the hide of Nikkatsu Studio, is on fire in this visually audacious WWII drama. The story had been filmed before (with a script by Akira Kurosawa) and this rougher version wasn’t much appreciated at the time. But it’s reputation has rightfully grown and the film now plays as a sober b&w yin to the yang of Suzuki’s extravagantly hopped up color-coded YOUTH OF THE BEAST/’63. The prostitute in question has run off to the Sino-Japanese War to serve as a ‘comfort girl,’ a military whore for the service men & officers. She quickly becomes the adjutant’s favorite, but she grows almost hysterically attached to the officer’s handsome young aide. The fatalistic charge of the story and Suzuki’s stunning visual panache all but overflow the boundaries of the WideScreen format. Even more impressively, the film manages to touch on all the deep dish issues of humanity, war, & military insanity found in better known, award-winning pics like NINGEN NO JOKEN/THE HUMAN CONDITION (1959-1961), which accomplishes far, far less in 9 & a half hours than Suzuki accomplishes in a mere hour & a half. A major work, a phenomenal achievement.

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