Youth of the Beast
In 1968, Japanese director Seijun Suzuki saw his long-standing contract with the Nikkatsu studio terminated for repeatedly turning routine potboiler scripts he was given into increasingly surreal, visually uninhibited gangster movies, such as avant-garde masterworks Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. 1963's Youth of the Beast rarely reaches quite the same fantastic heights of kaleidoscopic imagery, but within it the seeds of Suzuki's later, greater madness were sown.
In what's almost a Yakuza riff on Yojimbo, the ostensible plot sees one thug (the famously chipmunk-cheeked Jô Shishido) play two opposing crime bosses against one another. Suzuki and cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka turn the macho clashes into a vivid feast akin to the work of Nicholas Ray or Vincente Minnelli, if either spent some wilderness years on the Japanese genre circuit. Crime conventions are dismantled, colour takes precedence over coherence, and madcap humour and tangents intrude on a stock narrative the director palpably doesn't care that much about but still makes really entertaining. [Josh Slater-Williams]