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    Pistol Opera

    Built to blast

    A stylish killer known as the Stray Cat litters the screen with dead bodies in the obtuse Japanese film "Pistol Opera" by legendary 90-year-old director Seijun Suzuki.


    Charitably, we might try to think of "Pistol Opera" as the "Tampopo" of killing people.

    Directed by: Seijun Suzuki.
    Written by: Kazunori Ito, Takeo Kimura.
    Cast: Makiko Esumi, Sayoko Yamaguchi, Kan Hanae, Masatoshi Nagase, Mikijiro Hira, Kirin Kiki, Kenji Sawada, Tomio Aoki, Haruko Kato, Yeong-he Han, Kensaku Watanabe, Jan Woudstra.
    In Japanese with English subtitles.
    In what seems to be intended as a fun, avant-garde romp, "Pistol Opera" is made up of sometimes nonsensical but lighthearted scenes featuring shootings and stabbings galore. Loosely constructed action scenes and improbable conversations are mixed with opera-style on-stage scenes of swordfighting, gun-shooting and caterwauling. Whether any of this has any significance at all is up to the viewer, but anyone who depends on conventional plot or the simplest logic to enjoy a film would be well advised to take a pass on this one.

    "Pistol Opera" is 80-year-old Seijun Suzuki's belated followup to his 1967 film "Branded to Kill," a stylish shoot-'em-up said to have been an inspiration to the likes of John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. Be that as it may, this film is no "Pulp Fiction" — it's an obtuse creation meant for avant-garde buffs only.

    Pistol Opera  
    We follow the deadly journey of the lithe, beautiful Miyuki Minazuki, nicknamed "The Stray Cat," the number-three killer in a mystical assassin's guild. Her mentor, a retired killer who once occupied an exalted rank in the guild's hierarchy, praises her killing aesthetic: "With all of your wisdom, with all of your technique, killing blooms into a work of art."

    What he means by this is hard to fathom, because although Stray Cat is beautiful and elegantly dressed, her technique is pretty much to point a gun at somebody and shoot. Bang-bang, die-die. There's nothing interesting about her or what she does.

    The Stray Cat's mission is to bump off her rivals — from Doctor Painless to Snake Belly to a kid in a wheelchair — before they do her. Will she become number one? Does it matter?

    In fact, does anything in the film matter? Why is the woman in the picture above lying against a piano keyboard in the woods? Why does a realistic-looking older woman suddenly bust into our narrative to talk about the death of Mishima, and then disappear again? Why is any of this happening? If you're that one in a million Japanese-cult-film fanatic who eats up this stuff, then by all means you can have it. Otherwise, just move on.

    JUNE 13, 2003

    Reader comments on Pistol Opera:

  • Pistol Opera   from John Alvarez, Oct 24, 2003
  • suzuki   from crank dawg12, Nov 7, 2003
  • Re: suzuki   from GhostShip Blue, Jan 6, 2004
  • Pistol Opera   from Filmie, May 26, 2004
  • Re: Pistol Opera   from rose, Jun 30, 2009
  • queston   from rose , Jun 30, 2009

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