Branded To Kill (1967, Seijun Suzuki)

IMDB says:
“A hit-man, with a fetish for sniffing boiling rice, fumbles his latest job, putting him into conflict with his treacherous wife, with a mysterious woman eager for death and with the phantom-like hit-man known only as Number One.”

I say: “She was his wife??”

Crazypants movie, seems to have been semi-remade in Suzuki’s own even-crazier Pistol Opera (they share a writer). This one has four credited writers, but Suzuki seems to have paid the script little mind, leading to his firing from the studio.

Starring my favorite chipmunk-cheeked badass Jo Shishido, who I just watched in the same year’s A Colt Is My Passport.

Joe, the third-ranked hitman, busts around with new partner Kasuga (Hiroshi Minami of a couple Miyamoto Musashi movies), gets a contract to protect a dude, but Kasuga seems unstable.

Kasuga loses it and charges the fourth-ranked hitman in a tunnel, killing both of them.

Joe kills the second-ranked hitman next – I’m not sure if he was supposed to, or if there was any plan, but he sets the guy on fire. Joe returns home to his wife and snorts rice fumes. It gives him energy (AKA makes him horny). But she tries to kill him and runs off.

Next, Joe is hired by a mysterious girl with a funny nose named Misako (Anne Mari of The Killing Bottle and Mini Skirt Lynchers).

But she is confusing, aims a gun at him, and maybe wants to kill herself.

Joe kills his own wife, the guy he was protecting ends up dead, he fails a job for Misako when a butterfly lands on his rifle scope. The movie begins to confuse Joe excessively.

Shadowy, mysterious Number One (Koji Nanbara of The Human Condition I) begins to threaten Joe, saying he’s kidnapped Misako.

Joe checks the film, says “this can’t be right”:

Joe is set up, hides under a car for cover, dragging it along as a ludicrous shield. But he can’t escape Number One, who leads him to a boxing ring, where Joe accidentally shoots Misako, and either Joe or Number One or maybe both are killed.

John Zorn loves it:

Born in 1923 during the short-lived and quirky Taisho period in Japan, Suzuki inherited a powerful appetite for Haikara (modern style) that was tempered by his experiences in World War II. As the member of a meteorological unit, he was twice shipwrecked in the Philippines and Taiwan, and bore witness to atrocities we can only imagine. His nihilistic philosophy is quite apparent in this work—“Making things is not what counts: the power that destroys them is”—as a kind of playful irreverence that echoes the French New Wave that influenced Suzuki and his contemporaries.