(Elegy to Violence), (The Born Fighter)
Hideki Takahashi, Junko Asano, Yusuke Kawazu,
The film that brought Suzuki to critical prominence, Fighting Elegy is his scathing tirade against the growing militarism that, in the 1930s, sent young men like him to war, having been steeped in a belief in the mutability of all things so that they might better accept their own deaths. For Suzuki, this cruel absurdity was a source of humor, and that is nowhere better demonstrated than in the tale of Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi), a punk who realizes the ridiculousness of his outré violence while he revels in it. Nanbu, a high school student and militant ideologue, is trapped (kicking and screaming) between conflicting ideologies. Moreover, he is torn between the purity of his love for Michiko (Junko Asano), the daughter of the Catholic family with whom he lives, and his sexual desire for her. His restlessness finds expression in street brawls, which he orchestrates like some brash movie director, staged by Suzuki with typical high style and humor. Like a cartoon—or a Shaw Brothers kung fu extravaganza—this violence parodies itself, much as Suzuki saw the mounting deaths on the battlefield as reflections of their own absurdity. The director’s somber twist on the original story (and the screenplay by Onibaba’s Kaneto Shindo) has Nanbu packing in all this childish violence for the real thing, presumably the Sino-Japanese War, and from there, the worldwide conflagration.