October 16, 1991, Wednesday, 1* EDITION
SECTION: ENTERTAINMENT; VANCOUVER FILM FESTIVAL; Pg. C5
LENGTH: 616 words
BYLINE: KATHERINE MONK; VANSUN
Japanese legend sees himself as simple chronicler
A MOMENT BEFORE he walks into the muted-beige hotel room, the drone
of the outer
office crashes in and resonates against the white walls.
Once inside, the calm breath of Seijun Suzuki spins a cocoon around
the three people
within: the reporter, the translator and the prophet.
Suzuki is, perhaps, Japan's most venerated film-maker. With more than
experience making movies, and almost as many titles, he is the granddaddy of the
business - in any country.
(He is the featured film-maker at this year's festival. Twelve Suzuki
films have been
shown; the last one, Yumeji, shows at the Cinematheque at 4 p.m. today.)
But for all his accomplishments, Suzuki does not see himself as the
legend he has become
He says he is not an artist - but a prophet.
"Artists feel the damnation of God, and they re-create the world around
them in their art
to express their haunted spirits."
Suzuki says he only illustrates the pattern of life as God created it,
because that's what
people want to see. It's also what people understand.
"I am not haunted by demons . . . I have never made movies as an art
form. I am an
entertainer. I make things to entertain an audience."
SUZUKI'S HUMILITY could account for his lack of recognition outside
Japan and the
inner circle of international film literati: how many of us know who designed the
Coca-Cola logo, even though it's one of the most recognized squiggles in the world?
By seeing himself as a commercial movie-maker, Suzuki has not pushed
his name ahead
of himself as an auteur. He is where he sits - complete, whole and unfettered.
Suzuki started making films shortly after the Second World War. He apprenticed
assistant director in the old studio system, learned about the technical aspects of
film-making from inside, and then graduated to direct his own features.
He says his films are modelled after traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre.
"There are three points: the love scene, the murder scene and the battle
into film, those are the three basic ingredients of entertainment."
To keep things interesting, Suzuki says he likes to keep his actors
on their toes. He rarely
hands out more than a scene of dialogue at a time, and as for rehearsals: "Rehearsal?
What's a rehearsal?" he asks with a huge grin.
"I receive the most joy out of the things that happen on the set spontaneously."
AND IF ONE scene worked perfectly on its own but doesn't seem to relate
to the rest of
the film, Suzuki says: "So what?"
It may be harder to edit the film afterwards, but when a scene is working,
he says, one
should simply let it go.
"One perfect image at one point in the film can make the whole film
that's what gives me pleasure."
Even after 40 years, making movies is still a constant voyage of discovery
for Suzuki -
not so much technically anymore, but spiritually.
"Why make a movie about something one understands completely? I make
things I do not understand, but wish to."
Suzuki's latest film, Yumeji, is a historical account of pre-war Japanese
poet and painter
"It may not follow the biographical information of the man, and some
criticize it because of that, but I feel Yumeji was a spontaneous man who did what he
wanted. And that's how I approached the film."
Suzuki nods when asked if the film could be related to his own life:
"Could be . . . could
be," he says, smiling through his grey beard.
"Some biographies might talk about the struggle of the painter/poet,
and what he
discovered and learned. But he (Yumeji) didn't care. He just did what he wanted."
The same can be said for Suzuki.