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The Taisho Trilogy: Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-Za, Yumeji

Zigeunerweisen

Japanese director Seijun Suzuki has always embraced a dizzying narrative and visual turbulence. But it was the license Suzuki took in the 1960s in re-crafting traditional yakuza scripts as modernist, avant-garde jags (see Tokyo Drifter [1966] and Branded to Kill [1967]) that earned him the enmity of Nikkatsu studio and a veritable banishment from feature-film production. His eventual return to the big screen proved as spectacular as his most over-the-top plots: Independently produced and distributed, Zigeunerweisen (1980) won three Japanese Academy Awards, including best director, and inaugurated a trilogy of films that re-established Suzuki as a giant of international cinema. Comprising Zigeunerweisen and the subsequent Kagero-za (1981) and Yumeji (1991), the Taisho Trilogy gets its name from the historical period in which all three films are set, a 14-year span from 1912 to 1926 when Western influences rocked Japan’s traditional social, cultural and political institutions. Steeped in the period’s clash of detail — scratchy gramophones and bowler hats meet geishas and kimonos — each film unfolds as a meditation on transformation and change, with ghosts, doubles and dream sequences permeating the alternately melancholic and debauched love triangles at the center of each story. Zigeunerweisen sets the tone and template: After a sudden reunion at a violent crime scene, two childhood friends — one a staid academic, the other a bohemian vagabond — circle each other in constant tension, caught up in the gravity of their mutual desire for a depressed geisha. Building the film around the recurrence of a haunting Pablo de Sarasate violin recording that seems to hold the key to some impenetrable mystery, Suzuki deploys an elliptical structure and surrealist imagery to dispel nostalgia while exploring the gaps between memory and history. Released on DVD by Kino as a box-set and separately, each disc includes liner notes and trailers, while a Suzuki interview is included with Zigeunerweisen.

Other recommended new releases: The Buster Keaton Collection (DVD); Prix de Beauté (DVD). VHS/DVD: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Howl’s Moving Castle; Jarhead. DVD: Baby Einstein: Meet the Orchestra — First Instruments; The Brady Bunch: The Complete Final (Fifth) Season; Breaking News; The Cosby Show: Season 2; The Exonerated; The Flintstones: The Complete Fifth Season; Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 8: The Altar of Stone; Hogan’s Heroes: The Complete Third Season; I Walk the Line (1970); Just Friends; Let’s Love Hong Kong; Miracle Dogs Too; Paper Clips; Police Woman: The Complete First Season; The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour: The Complete Series; The Shaggy Dog (1959); The Tenants; Three’s Company: Season 6; Walking Tall: The Complete Series; The Warrior; Whisper of the Heart.


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