Seijun Suzuki: Japanese Legend Copyright 1991 Pacific Press Ltd.
                                                             The Vancouver Sun

                                                    October 16, 1991, Wednesday, 1* EDITION


LENGTH: 616 words


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 40 years'
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
in Japan.

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 as an
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 scene. Translated
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 meaningful, and
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 movies about
things I do not understand, but wish to."

Suzuki's latest film, Yumeji, is a historical account of pre-war Japanese poet and painter
Yumeji Takehisa.

"It may not follow the biographical information of the man, and some people may
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.