11:00 - 25th January 2015, by Calum Waddell

Youth of the Beast

Directed by the great Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill / Tokyo Drifter), 1963’s Youth of the Beast remains one of the most aesthetically ambitious Japanese pulp gangster epics from the country’s golden era of cinema. Set in Tokyo and starring genre veteran Jô Shishido, the film weaves a fairly traditional story: an ex-cop finds a place within a gang of underground criminals and becomes a pivotal part of them waging war against a rival band of thugs (think of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo transplanted to a contemporary environment). Add in some peripheral subplots and a feisty femme fatale and you have little more than a typical noir with the usual layers of sexual intrigue and violent intensity.

However, what really makes Youth of the Beast so special are its outstanding visuals. From a sand-swept scene of masculine frustration to rain-enshrouded gangster dealings – this is one of the most eye-wateringly beautiful, and inventive, yakuza flicks ever made. Character motivation, plot and coherence ultimately takes second seat to the alluring atmosphere on offer – and we challenge anyone to not be bedevilled by Suzuki’s excessive colour palette and garish set decorations. Indeed, Youth of the Beast is so invigorating that one can happily imagine basking in its invigorating aura whilst the sound it turned off – either an acknowledgement of the threadbare theatrics on offer or a testament to the director’s stylistic dedication. Either way, this is one thriller that it would be criminal not to add to your collection. We can but wish John Woo well on his current attempt at undertaking a remake…

Beastly beautiful – Suzuki’s crime-shocker remains a stunning achievement.
SCORE: 4/5
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