Pistol Opera

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Seijun Suzuki is very nearly a cult figure for directing films his way. In a Japanese industry where every film fits one genre or subgenre, & rebels end up unemployed, Suzuki has nevertheless refused to fall into line. For Pistol Opera (2001) he took an exploitation film idea -- girl assassins -- & rendered it a combination kabuki-fest & modern dance.

The extraordinary use of light & color creates imagist portrais in which the threat of violence is a musical performance. The beauty of the costuming, oddity of sets, & frame by frame composition, edged always in unreality, is more like a technicolor dream than any other film.

Prettily kimonoed assassin Stray Cat (like all these characters) moves with the beauty & artifice of jazz dance. Hundreds of individual frames of this film might be blown up into the finest pop art posters.

As an old assassin says, "Killing blooms into an artwork." This is an action film with a philosophical point of view, that bloodshed is a composition in flowers.

High as this praise may seem, there is an "on the other hand" situation here, for after a while the extreme stylishness seemed mainly effected & eventually tedious. The story is superficial (assassin guild members killing one another to see who gets to be the new Number One), so the sense of it being a collection of one-dimensional pop art posters extends to the thinness of the characters. These characters are more symbolic than real so none of their emotions to carry conviction.

By the end it has turned indeed into modern dance & forgets to tell any story at all. As an action film it fails. Perhaps it should be assessed as an experimental dance film.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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