Parker at the Movies, Part 4: Mr Suzuki and The Stark Homage.

His hand on the knob, she called his name.  He turned around, questioning, irritated, and saw the Police Positive in her hand.  He just had time to remember that it had to be either Chester or Mal–the two who’d been given the revolvers–when she pulled the trigger and a heavy punch in his stomach drove the breath and the consciousness out of him.

It was his belt buckle that saved him.  Her first shot had hit the buckle, mashing it into his flesh.  The gun had jumped in her hand, the next five shots all going over his falling body and into the wood of the door.  But she’d fired six shots at him, and she’d seen him fall, and she couldn’t believe that he was anything but dead.

He awoke to heat and suffocation.  They’d set fire to the house.

I shouldn’t need to tell you.

Rojini has offered cease-fire agreement in Paakaa. However the truce was broken by the traitor of the organization. But the son of man aiming secretly position of boss took the gold, Paakaa you charge the brunt of the attack, increase the fire, strikes back to unscrupulous traitor! Villain Paakaa and his friends, Ru Osoikaka mighty criminal organization. Premier epic yelling prime all the charm of the series.

Promotional text from the first Japanese edition of Butcher’s Moon, run through an online software, which only goes to show that some things are gained in translation.

Japanese film is yet another thing I loved a long time before I ever heard of Donald Westlake. And as I now discover, much to my delight, I can conclusively link up the two.  (This will be a short piece.  Hopefully get the motor running again.)

Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Kobayashi–I’ll admit I tended to favor the Jidaigeki, or period costume dramas, often dealing with the heavily mythologized samurai class, and creatively rebelling against those myths.  My first love was the Kaiju Eiga , naturally–what other Japanese flicks is an American kid going to know in the 60’s and 70’s?  Crush the grown-ups, Godzilla!)  I know many other names besides those three above. But I was never enough of a maven to know them all.  Too rich a vein to ever fully mine out, unless you’re Quentin Tarantino, which I am decidedly not.

You branch out over time–I’ve gotten a fair few kicks from Takashi Miike, ‘J-Horror’ being something many in the west have learned to warily love (and assiduously copy) in the 21st, and the variety of stuff available on cable and Region 1 DVD has kept expanding.  Japanese film isn’t what it once was, of course, but what is?

Miike also did Yakuza films, of which I’ve only seen the intentionally over the top and confusing Ichi the Killer, which being a David Lynch fan, I had no trouble following.  Well, maybe a little, but it didn’t bother me.  You’re either along for the ride or not, right?  Last chance to leap out of the getaway car.  Here we go…..

So TCM has recently been showing a lot of Japanese crime films (you can call them noir if you like, everybody else does) from the late 50’s and 60’s, usually in the wee hours of the night, but that’s what DVR is for.  Many of these were produced not by Toho or Toei, but by what you might call in Hollywood terms, a poverty row studio, Nikkatsu.  Founded in 1912, it opted in the post-war era to make the Yakuza thriller and the police drama its twin wheelhouse, because they couldn’t afford to hire the best samurai stars, and didn’t really know how to make good monster suits and tiny model cities for them to stomp on.  If you can’t afford the top names, make your own, right?  That’s what they did.  Worked for Warner Bros in the early 30’s (didn’t work out quite as well for Nikkatsu).

One of their top stars made himself, you might say–Joe Shishido, sometimes called Joe the Ace, though I struggle not to refer to him as Gerbiljaw.   A conventionally handsome man with both talent and ambition, he decided he needed something to make him stand out from the farflung field of fashion plates (and didn’t want to play cheesy romantic leads), so he had plastic surgery to enlarge his cheekbones, leading to a face looking like– well……a chipped chunk of concrete with eyes of flawed onyx? At some angles, chipmunk would be more like it, but he usually had directors who knew how to point their cameras.

screen-shot-2014-03-06-at-2-10-32-am

Regardless of whether the new look caused vibrations above the nylons among female filmgoers (definitely had that effect on women in his films), Shishido became the definitive star of the Yakuza Eiga.  And he frequently worked with a creative young director named Seijun Suzuki, who just recently passed away at the age of 93.

At times, the studio heads wanted Suzuki to be less creative.  He would actually trim his budgets, just to get them to leave him alone to do what he wanted, and as so often happens with geniuses, this made the films even more creative (and therefore, more problematic for the studio).  He claimed it was never his conscious intent to be surrealistic.  It just came out that way.

He’s been written about a lot.  Many a cult western filmmaker has waxed elegaic.  I’m not a film critic, and I haven’t seen most of his movies (and I have to admit, sometimes I fast-forward the ones I record off TCM, when he’s wanking around too much).  So let’s cut to the chase, since this blog ain’t The Suzuki Scenario. Came a point when Suzuki souped up the motorcycle too much for his own good.

It was when he got brought onto a project about a steely-eyed assassin working for the Yakuza, with Shishido playing the surly strong-willed hitter, like he’d already done a few times before.  Joe had the right face (paid well for it).

According to the Wikipedia article for Branded to Kill, the studio hated the original script, brought Suzuki in to rewrite it, then told him they couldn’t understand the script he handed in (a not-uncommon complaint), but there was no time for a do-over, because release schedules. They told him to go ahead and film it.  Even though the auteur theory was by this time a thing, Suzuki had no such pretensions, and was simply following orders–he just followed them his own way.  A true rebel doesn’t have to say no–he just does it.

Suzuki didn’t believe in storyboarding.  He wrote and directed by what I think could be justly called The Push Method, which is probably harder than it looks, and in his line of business, there wasn’t much time for rewrites.

He would often come up with ideas for a scene the day before shooting it, or while shooting it.  He did as few takes as possible, exposing the bare minimum of celluloid, which he said was a habit he picked up in the days after the war, when film stock was hard to come by, but maybe also because he didn’t want the studio to recut the film in a way he didn’t like (is any of this sounding eerily familiar to long-time readers here?)  25 days allotted for shooting, three for post-production, but he finished editing the sucker in one.  (Now don’t talk about efficiency, that’s racist.)

It was released on June 15th, 1967.  Just shy of nine weeks before John Boorman’s Point Blank premiered in San Francisco.  There is not the slightest chance either film impacted the other.  And yet, they somehow share a subplot and a scene. As well as the distinction of being revered visionary cult films that bombed to hell at the box office because audiences couldn’t figure out what the fuck was going on in them, but that’s just something that happened a lot with studio films in the 60’s and 70’s.   The subplot and the scene–that’s a bit different.

See, in Branded to Kill, Goro Hanada, #3 hitman in Japan, has a wife named Mami, who likes to talk about how terrifying her husband is, then have wild sex with him after he smells pots of cooking rice (don’t ask).  A conniving Yakuza boss starts chatting her up, and she is aware that Goro has been lustfully eyeing another woman (played by half-Indian actress, Annu Mari, and I for one don’t blame him), and she’s particularly concerned when he blows a major job because a butterfly landed on his rifle barrel (lousy special effect, but that’s hardly the point of anything).

Goro is planning to leave the country, while Mami lies in bed, holding a gun, looking scared.  To save her own lovely skin (of which we see a lot in the movie, which broke new ground in onscreen nudity), she shoots Goro in the stomach (just once, with an automatic) and flees in a panic, while he lies on the floor, seemingly dead.  For no rationally comprehensible reason, we see flames spring up outside the window immediately after her naked form scampers out the door. Well, the film isn’t trying to be rational.

Goro isn’t dead, though.  The bullet glanced off his belt buckle (Suzuki does a close up of the bullet hitting it, just so we’ll know).  He’s hurt, but alive–and enraged.  Off-kilter.  Bad stuff ensues.

Yeah.

Maybe this is a good time to mention that The Hunter (aka Human Hunting Parker/ Villain) was published by Hayakawa in 1966?  You can see the cover up top, along with a written dedication from the translator, Nobumitsu Kodaka, who seems to have sent Westlake a copy in 1975.  (These images courtesy of the Official Westlake Blog.)

So you know, just because you’re a brilliant artist doesn’t mean you don’t steal from other artists sometimes.  As Akira Kurosawa might have said to Sergio Leone if they ever met.  I don’t see anything else in the film specifically from the work of Richard Stark (who doesn’t make organization men his heroes, however surly they might be). I don’t think Westlake would have blamed Suzuki at all–he was known to lift the odd few things himself, though he was rarely this obvious about it.  (Godard would be another matter, since that involved welshing on a debt.)

What’s interesting is how both Suzuki and Boorman independently decided they had to justify the wife’s treacherous behavior, and have her be attracted to a criminal colleague of his  (who isn’t all that attractive), be dissatisfied with her marriage–she couldn’t just shoot her heinous hubby because she panicked under pressure, saw no other way out.  (Played out about the same way in Payback).

She has to be a willing pawn, I suppose, to justify what’s coming later, so the anti-hero doesn’t seem too anti-heroic for taking revenge (and of course, nobody ever goes with the face mutilation thing from the novel).  But Suzuki, who was never much inclined to pull his punches, doesn’t make his two-timing missus take the coward’s way out–hey, remember the floating hair thingy at the end of the climactic sword fight in Kill Bill Vol I?

(Mami saying they’re beasts, as she does earlier in the film, is also interesting, as if Suzuki is picking up on Parker’s lupine nature, but if so, he’s not seeing it as a positive.)

But understand, it’s not just one scene–there’s a build-up to that moment where the film goes full DaDa on us (because Goro is going mad), and it all clearly stems from the twisted relationship between Parker and Lynn in Westlake’s novel, that moment of betrayal that first introduces us to that strange mental state Parker goes into when someone betrays his trust.

Only Goro, while genuinely dangerous, is in a very different type of story, and doesn’t know himself the way Parker does, which is Suzuki’s point, fair play to him.  And the intent, as with Point Blank, is to send up the whole genre, deconstruct it (I doubt Suzuki used that term).  And, in many ways, to make a fool of the rugged hitman, cut him down to size, even while mythologizing him. As Westlake in a sense tried to do with Parker when he wrote what became The Hot Rock–only to realize it wouldn’t work.

Do I agree this is a work of visual genius, that influenced generations of filmmakers?  It’s every bit of that, whether I think so or not.  Do I think it’s a great film?  Ehhhh…..remind me what I said about Point Blank when I wrote about it?  Only that had Lee Marvin, and he didn’t need any surgical enhancements, did he?

There are some pretty serious second act problems.  I feel that Suzuki missed a great opportunity with the Annu Mari character, a female assassin, ice cold, deadly, and oddly vulnerable at the same time, who is written out far too quickly, and replaced by a less interesting (and far less alluring) male counterpart to Goro whose primary claim to fame is that he never uses the toilet when he has to go, because that would be unprofessional.

The film is not long, but seems endless, as bad dreams invariably do.  There’s a bit too much self-conscious posing for the camera, a bit too little attempt to make the nonsense make sense (as the best work of David Lynch does, for example).   It’s got the makings of a masterpiece, and in a certain limited sense it is (as is Point Blank), but not in the sense I’m looking for when I decide whether to call a film that or not.

Because a movie theater isn’t an art gallery.  In a movie theater, story matters, and stories have messages, however nuanced and ambiguous–and as with Point Blank, which I also admire from a visual standpoint, I am not at all sure this film has any message to convey other than “Isn’t this cool?”  It definitely is, but I need more.

Suzuki was on the cusp of a new style, but he hadn’t quite figured it out, and because of a famous legal battle with Nikkatsu that put his career on hold, he never really got the chance until much later, by which time his meandering muse had largely deserted him (studio suits can be annoying, but for some artists, they can be a necessary irritant).  It’s never easy to be in the vanguard, and I will say, I want to see more of his early work; what he constructed before he started with the deconstruction.  I don’t begrudge him one bit of his belated recognition as a cinematic trailblazer.

But remember, they just handed him this project, he shot it in 25 days, edited it in one, got paid a whole lot less than Boorman, and film buffs are still studying it. Maybe someday they’ll find a plot in there somewhere (and be shot for their pains).

Nobody has to look for the plot in Westlake’s novel–it comes hunting for you, and good luck trying to escape it.  It’s been hunting us down since 1962.

Cutting to the proverbial chase, Branded to Kill is not an uncredited  adaptation of The Hunter, but was sure as bloody hell directly consciously influenced by it.  Coincidence my Aunt Fumiko.  An unquestionable match.  Still and all, if anybody wants to question it, here I am, waiting.  There’s no butterfly on my rifle barrel.  Sayonara for now, suckers.

 

15 Comments

Filed under Donald Westlake, Donald Westlake film adaptations, Donald Westlake novels, Parker film adaptations, Parker Novels, Richard Stark, Uncategorized

15 responses to “Parker at the Movies, Part 4: Mr Suzuki and The Stark Homage.

  1. Greg Tulonen

    Perhaps this needs to be added to the “Homages” section of the Parker Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parker_(Stark_novels_character)#Homages

    • I know I used the word, but in cases like this, I’m never sure if it’s an homage or just an outright grab–which is not to say an act of disrespect. Westlake grabbed a fair bit himself (and often from gangster movies, as he had Stark tell him in that mock-interview).

      Now to be sure, the book was available in Japan by then, and probably doing decent sales with the type of people who were into Yakuza Eiga films (Hayakawa went right on publishing the Parker novels, all the way up to Butcher’s Moon). Fresh in their memories too, so good bet that a fair percentage of the rather sparse crowds that showed up when the film was first in theaters caught the reference, enjoyed it. But as you’d expect, Suzuki doesn’t seem to have ever admitted to it. The game of homage is played by unwritten rules, because copyright law isn’t.

      The story as a whole isn’t based on The Hunter, just this one subplot–Suzuki, as I said, tended to come up with ideas very suddenly, telling everybody on set at the last possible moment. However, the subplot with the wife would probably have been in the original script (they had to scout around for a good actress willing to do that much nudity in the 60’s), and the belt buckle thing needed some advance notice, since that’s a tricky thing to film (I regret I was unable to find a video of that scene online).

      Clearly what got Suzuki’s attention was the way Parker is destabilized by his wife’s betrayal, which is echoed by the arc of this film’s protagonist. Like everybody else who films some version of that story, he feels the wife isn’t developed enough–Stark can get into Lynn’s head, tell us what she’s experiencing, making us understand the fateful decision she makes, but cinema goes by the maxim ‘show don’t tell’ so Suzuki thinks he’s got to give Mami some motive for betraying Goro–a new man waiting in the wings, jealousy, and fear for her own life (three motives!)

      Frankly, so much of what the characters do and say in this film is out of left field, I don’t see why he doesn’t just surprise us, instead of setting it up in advance, letting us in on the upcoming . Maybe because he wants the first part of the film to make more sense, to highlight the insanity of the second half, after Goro goes off the rails. It’s all so much messier than Stark. But then, pretty much everything is. Including Life, I suppose, but naturalism was not the goal here. Hard as I look, I can’t find anything to match the spare perfection of a good Parker. 😦

      You can call it an homage, but really storytellers just take whatever they need, from wherever they can find it, and hope to get away with it. There’s a reason one of the best writers either of us has ever encountered was obsessed with thieves.

      So yeah, I guess I could edit it in. Or would you like to? 😉

      • Looking at the homage section you referenced, it seems to be entirely devoted to instances where the storyteller is openly admitting a debt to Stark. Not true in this case. Suzuki can’t admit where he got the story ideas from, any more than Kurosawa could admit that he was directly influenced by Red Harvest when making Yojimbo. That was a much less direct grab, and Kurosawa did go to some pains to make clear his admiration for Hammett, but if he said “I got the idea from this book” the estate could sue. So he mentioned another Hammett novel, that has basically no resemblance to Yojimbo, just to muddy the waters. And then the Coens reversed the polarity, decades later. You can’t ever admit you got an idea for a movie directly from a book under copyright. Because there’s too much money involved.

        You can, however, borrow very directly from your best friend’s short story, and would you care to hazard a guess as to which 70’s Westlake novel did that? You could call it a snatch. That’ll be up next.

  2. Tom

    Thank you for bringing this movie to my attention! I started watching it on the Criterion Channel and in the first twenty minutes my jaw dropped in astonishment.

    See, one of my favorite books is a thriller that came out in 1965 called Midnight Plus One, by the British author Gavin Lyall. I used to think it would be the perfect movie for Steve McQueen, and later found out McQueen bought the rights to adapt it and it never got made. Anyway, the story involves a couple of bodyguards (one British, one American) who get hired to transport a guy from France to Liechtenstein. The American is an alcoholic with shaky hands, so this is obviously going to create a problem for a guy who may have to use a gun. The Brit carries an unusual pistol: a Broomhandle Mauser. Spoiler alert: the climax of the story involves one of the characters using gasoline to light one of the villains on fire and the guy runs out into the countryside all ablaze. Check the book out if you haven’t read it. I’ve been checking and can’t find anyone who seems to have spotted the elements and connected them with the book. After all these years I finally get to see this novel adapted! Well, kinda-sorta.

    • Just from your description, I can see the parallels. Interesting how that’s from early in the film as well. He begins with a bunch of pilfered story elements, then goes off into a reverie of his own. (I doubt there’s a crime fiction novel where a killer misses his aim because of an errant butterfly, but who knows?)

      Might be hard to confirm Lyall’s book was published in Japanese by 1967, but doesn’t sound unlikely. There was an avid audience for this type of story there, which is why Nikkatsu made all these films. The point of New Wave directors like Suzuki is to put their own spin on the material, as Boorman did over in Hollywood, but I doubt Suzuki would have ever referred so contemptuously to the material he was adapting as Boorman reportedly did (all the more since he didn’t have the rights to adapt any of it).

      I never meant any disrespect to Suzuki-san, or to suggest he was some plagiarizing hack–but sometimes the reverence for cultish auteurs makes us forget that they’re just making a living too. He had to write and shoot this movie incredibly fast, and not to simply repeat what he’d done in earlier films, Therefore he needed to borrow beg and steal a good bit of his plot. Maybe a lot of the disjointed dream-like elements that are supposed to be his visionary aesthetic were just because he ran out of books? Well, it’s just a thought. That I’m guessing Suzuki fans would not appreciate them, but they have their own blogs. I assume.

      Editing–There’s a 1999 paperback edition of Lyall’s book in Japanese (and very expensive it is on Amazon). Odds are there was a hardcover some time before. Honestly, this would be a job for somebody who knows Japanese, and can search their Amazon for old books. But what you describe sounds much too close to be a coincidence. I believe we have an established pattern here. As well as still more proof that ‘film scholarship’ is sometimes an oxymoron. Do your research, people! 😉

      • Tom

        With regard to the homage angle: there’s a famous quote of a conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Sam Fuller that supposedly went like this:
        Sam Fuller to Jean-Luc Godard: You’re a goddamned thief, a plagiarist.
        Jean-Luc Godard to Sam Fuller: In America plagiarism. In France, homage.
        When Fuller saw Dances with Wolves in 1990 his wife was angry and said the plot was stolen from his film Run of the Arrow. Fuller replied that the film ended with the line: THE ENDING CAN ONLY BE WRITTEN BY YOU! His wife’s response was: ‘So?’ Fuller said ‘It’s an invitation to go on with the story. They went on with the story!’ His wife laughed.

        As for why no one made the connection with the book, I think it’s because Lyall’s book seems to be just about forgotten. Which is too bad because I found it such an enjoyable book. There’s some non-PC stuff in there which you’d have to excise if you wanted to adapt it as a movie today. (A guy says he’d rape a woman as a compliment. You can tell this WAS 1965.) But otherwise I found it a lot of fun and it made me want to take the trip the characters take in the book. I think I discovered it around the time I discovered Westlake, curiously enough.

        • There’s no end of terrific books in the genre, but most writers in it aren’t as consistently entertaining and offbeat as Westlake. It’s still interesting to see what the others have to say.

          I’d want to read the rape quote in context, before I judged. If it’s something a man of a certain type might say, why not write it? We can’t let our changing mores make us into tepid cautious storytellers, afraid of treading on someone’s feelings, which is almost unavoidable if you want to write honestly. Patricia Highsmith would sneer at such timidity. Just understand the darkness in yourself, see it for what it is, then write about it. And hopefully its opposite.

          I’ve seen Run of the Arrow, and I tried to watch Dances With Wolves, and there’s not much overlap. The former is not a great movie, but it’s an honest expression of a complex combative personality. The latter is shallow wish-fulfillment from a pretty poser.

          Both Sam Fuller and Cornel Wilde (in The Naked Prey) got the idea of a man captured by hunter-gatherers being given a fighting chance to prove his fitness to survive from John Colter’s reminiscences. Fuller got there first, Wilde did it better. (With a lot less dialogue, which greatly improved the story).

          Lots of westerns featured bitter former Confederate soldiers (it’s a cliche of the genre). Fuller knew very well he’d borrowed most of his ideas from elsewhere. A good storyteller doesn’t get his or her feathers ruffled over the odd bit of pilfering, at least not if it’s done well. There’s a line you don’t cross, and Godard may not have been willing to recognize it, since he wasn’t really about story, but about images. The same may have been true of Suzuki, though probably less.

          Westlake indirectly sued Godard for (sort of) adapting The Jugger, but only because he hadn’t been fully paid for the rights, and that was the producer’s fault. I think what offended him about the film was what a piece of pretentious incoherent crap it was. Godard has made films worth seeing (like Fuller, he does better with less dialogue). He’s just never going to be a favorite of mine. If he really did say that thing about homage, it was pretty stupid, because plagiarism disguised as homage is a thing everywhere, always. 😉

    • Hachiro Guryu

      Tom,

      I’m with you on the Lyall influence. You might be interested in a film called “Naked Bullet” directed by Koji Wakamatsu and written by Atsushi Yamatoya – one of the writers behind “Branded to Kill” (you can see him in the film; he’s the killer that covers his own face with a handkerchief before dying earlyish in the film). You can see the Mauser in “Naked Bullet” as well. I think you can watch it with English subtitles if you look a bit. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and if you notice any familiar elements.

      Best wishes,

      -Hachiro Guryu

  3. Hachiro Guryu

    Hello to the folks at The Westlake Review,

    First off… Great site, and an intriguing article. I think that you are spot on in your assertion that ‘Branded to Kill’ was influenced by the Parker novels. The film also seems to be influenced by Gavin Lyall’s novel “Midnight Plus One” as well.

    The film’s writing credit is given to “Hachiro Guryu”, translating to “Group of Eight” in English; a pseudonym for the eight individuals that developed the screenplay. They are: Seijun Suzuki, Takeo Kimura, Atsushi Yamatoya, Yōzō Tanaka, Chūsei Sone, Yutaka Okada, Seiichirō Yamaguchi and Yasuaki Hangai.

    Atsushi Yamatoya is said to have written a large portion of the script. One of his films “Aiyoku no wana” released under the title “Trapped in Lust” has been included on Arrow’s dual format release of “Branded to Kill”. I think if you watch that film as well as some of his other films that he wrote and / or directed you’re going to see even more Parker nods.

    I’m loving this site! Keep up the great work.

    -Hachiro Guryu

    • This is a brilliant observation, and adds greatly to what I wrote. I did read that the script was a collaboration between Suzuki and associates, but I couldn’t find anything this specific in the sources I read–found some film criticism relating to Suzuki at the library I work in, but the thing about film scholars is, so many of them are into the auteur theory–there’s just one central creative mind worth talking about. Which makes their job so much simpler, eh?

      Entirely possible Suzuki never read Stark, though I would assume he had a strong interest in western crime fiction. My supposition that it was him was based on reading how he’d come up with new scenes at the last possible moment, to keep everybody off balance, creating the confused offkilter atmosphere he wanted in a film that is in a sense about confusion. But the subplot involving Mami couldn’t just be whipped up out of nowhere–had to be in the original script. Too central to the storyline.

      Being such close collaborators, of course, good chance that Suzuki knew where Yamatoya was getting his ideas from, and had no problems with it, since it was hardly close enough to cause problems, at least if they didn’t go around gabbing about it. .

      We all need to be more aware of the interactive nature of filmmaking, and put the auteur theory in its proper place. Which I wouldn’t say was the rubbish heap, but maybe a less prominent part of the bookshelf. 😉

      • Hachiro Guryu

        In films like ‘Branded to Kill’, ‘Tattooed Life’, and ‘Tokyo Drifter’ Seijun Suzuki demonstrates his mastery of Nikkatsu ‘borderless action’ and ninkyo-eiga and assembles familiar ideas in novel forms.

        As far as what’s “original” it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

        Not to get too far away from the Parker novels — because like you wrote, this is not the Suzuki Scenario — but if you’re curious about the butterflies in ‘Branded to Kill’ I suggest looking up a film called “Silence Has No Wings” directed by Kazuo Kuroki, released the prior year.

        • If we accept these films as serious artistic expressions (as well as fun entertainment), which I certainly do, isn’t it worth knowing where the ideas in them, whether story-related or visual, actually come from?

          And from my POV, since I’m far more fascinated with all things Westlake, I would like to know as much as possible about which storytellers in various mediums were influenced by him, and how. And who influenced him. It’s a cultural genealogy, and we’re all related, right? The DNA combines and recombines, and the permutations are endless.

          Nobody is ever 100% original, but it’s how we use our influences that matters. In this case, I think they could have been digested a little more fully, but they still serve their purpose admirably, and he made the whole film in less than a month. (I believe Westlake actually took a bit longer writing The Hunter.) I have no idea who got paid more, but neither of them got rich. John Boorman probably did.

          I don’t believe in the auteur theory to the extent it tells us there’s one person who deserves most of the credit for a good film. That to me is lazy criticism. Only true if he/she did all the work, and that’s almost never the case. I certainly do agree some directors have very distinctive styles and preoccupations, as do certain authors of print fiction, but they all steal. Well or badly. That’s the only real difference. Just don’t get caught. Suzuki-san is gone now, so far as I’m concerned, he got away clean.

          As to the butterflies, my primary reaction to that was ‘ewwwwww!”

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