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Harumi’s confident belief that her own fecund erotic power can destabilize the hierarchy is underlined as Suzuki offers a shot of her, clearly stripped but framed from just above her breasts and encompassing her grimly smiling face, as an icon of ripe, subversive intent.When she first tries to seduce him in a shed adjoining the brothel, Mikami slaps her when he thinks she’s mocking him: as her fellow prostitutes mass around Mikami and abuse him, Harumi screams in hysteria.

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Maverick Japanese director Seijun Suzuki has built a sizeable reputation outside of his native country, and yet he is still nowhere near famous enough.

A genuinely great film artist on a level with the most reputed names of world cinema, Suzuki’s was, for better and worse, famously defined by his struggle against being pigeonholed as a director of gangland melodramas.

Harumi is a creature doomed to survive on the margins of glorious enterprises.

The opening is both dazzlingly artful and entirely efficient.

A product of the time when he was still part of Nikkatsu and yet also clearly a renegade, is both a lacerating study of historical military and sexual insanity, and a monument to Suzuki’s own outsider bravado as a filmmaker and an relentless, ferocious commentator on his society.

Breaking momentarily free from his allotted role at the studio, Suzuki inverts the usual focus of the genre films he made, with the stoic, loner action heroes he was already aggressively disassembling, to look at a determined, unruly, but ultimately self-destructive heroine and make a sustained assault on the evils of Japan’s recent past.

Suzuki tested the tensile integrity of visual narrative with ever more daring force, keeping pace with and even outdoing the many western directors engaging with formal experimentalism during the ‘60s.

In later work, he pushed ever closer to abstraction and complete fragmentation of narrative.

Finally, she manages to bed Mikami by suggesting he’s a virgin, and she gradually emboldens him to sneak out of the barracks after dark to make rendezvous with her.

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