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Seijun Suzuki's The Taisho Trilogy Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za and Yumeji Limtied Edition
Limited Edition, 6-Disc Limited Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
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''HAUNTING, HYPNOTIC, FLAMBOYANT, EROTIC, BIZARRE... SUZUKI!''
After over a decade in the wilderness following his firing from Nikkatsu for Branded to Kill (1967), maverick director Seijun Suzuki returned with a vengeance with his critically-praised tryptic of cryptic supernatural dramas set during the liberal enlightenment of Japan s Taisho Era (1912-26).
In the multiple Japanese Academy Award-winning Zigeunerweisen (1980), two intellectuals and former colleagues from military academy involve their wives in a series of dangerous sexual games. In Kageroza (1981), a playwright is drawn like a moth to a flame to a mysterious beauty who might be a ghost, while Yumeji (1991) imagines the real-life painter-poet Takehisa Yumeji s encounter with a beautiful widow with a dark past.
Presented together on Blu-ray for the first time outside of Japan, the films in the Taisho Trilogy are considered Suzuki s masterpieces in his homeland. Presenting a dramatic turn from more his familiar tales of cops, gangsters and unruly youth, these surrealistic psychological puzzles drip with a lush exoticism, distinctively capturing the pandemonium of a bygone age of decadence and excess, when Western ideas, fashions, technologies and art fused into everyday aspect of Japanese life.
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The films themselves are a loosely-connected trio of surreal happenings during the Taisho period, with bizarre plots and Suzuki's astonishing imagery.
The DVDs themselves are well produced, finally including English subtitles. However, the quality of the video transfer, though acceptable, is not as good as the Japanese versions that I also have. Odd, since I am fairly sure that they are taken from the same source?
The films were made by director Seijun Suzuki, best known for the 1967 Yakuza movie, “Branded to Kill,” a film that got him fired but influenced Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch and others who dealt with both violence and controversy on screen.
In the first film of the trilogy, “Zigeunwrweisen” (1980), Suzuki focuses on two childhood friends — one a serious academic, the other a bohemian vagabond — intellectuals and former colleagues from military academy who involve their wives in a series of dangerous sexual games. In “Kageroza” (1981), a playwright is captivated and drawn to a mysterious beauty who might be a ghost.
“Yumeji” (1991), deals with real-life painter-poet Takehisa Yumeji (1884 - 1934), an artist during the Taisho period. The film deals with obsession. When Takehisa sees a beautiful woman, he is mesmerized and spends the rest of the film in pursuit of this vision who turns out to be a widow looking for her dead husband. His obsession leads him down a path of despair and debauchery.
Though visually striking, the films are often confusing because Suzuki doesn’t rely on traditional narrative. There are surreal images, ambiguity and symbols whose function isn’t clear, leaving the viewer perplexed. It is often difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy.
The 6-disc unrated Limited Edition Blu-ray + DVD box set contains the trilogy, on Blu-ray for the first time in North America. Bonus materials include new introductions to each film by film critic Tony Rayns; making-of featurette; vintage interview with Seijun Suzuki; Tony Rayns discussing “The Taisho Trilogy;” trailers; and a 60-page book featuring background on the films.
ZIGEUNERWEISEN: Visually astonishing and eternally haunting, this film represents the director's break from his characteristically campy yakuza flicks, delving into material that addresses the mysteries of death and desire. While on vacation, somber professor Aochi encounters his childhood friend, Nakasago, a handsome drifter down on his luck. Both men fall in love with Koine, a geisha, and though they go on to marry other women, their paxsions for Koine grow into all-consuming obsession. Suzuki's film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the 1981 Japanese Academy Awards, and is the first in his revered Taisho Trilogy.
KAGERO-ZA: The second of director Seijun Suzuki's wildly daring and much-acclaimed Taisho Trilogy, KAGERO-ZA, like its predecessor ZIGEUNERWEISEN, is set in Tokyo in the early 1920s. The haunting, episodic narrative follows a playwright and his growing obsession with a beautiful woman who floats in and out of his life. He first encounters her when she asks for his company on her way to the hospital, as she is afraid of the Chinese Lantern Plant vendor--the plant is said to contain female souls. He refuses, but his desire for the woman gradually overpowers him, so that by the time he realizes she is luring him to his demise, it is too late to stop her.
YUMEJI: The third in maverick director Seijun Suzuki's Taisho Trilogy, this absurdist, mysterious ghost story takes its name from the real-life painter Yumeji Takehisa. Yumeji (Kenji Sawada) strays from his lover when he falls for the beautiful and freshly widowed Tomoyo (Tomoko Mariya), whose husband was slain by the jealous Onimatsu (Kazuhiko Hasegawa). Yumeji pursues Tomoyo despite the evident danger, which grows even more pronounced when Wakiya (Kazuhiko Hasegawa), Tomoyo's murdered husband, returns from the dead.
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