Seijun Suzuki’s EVERYTHING GOES WRONG (1960)

I recently signed up for a temporary “Plus” account with Hulu.com so I could sample some of the rare Japanese films that Criterion has made available there. According to Criterion their partnership with Hulu, “gives viewers a chance to explore our library, sample films they might want to buy, discover films they never knew they would want, and see films so rare that they would never see the light of day in disc editions.” Naturally, I was intrigued and when I discovered that Seijun Suzuki’s hard-to-see film EVERYTHING GOES WRONG (also known as Subete ga kurutteru; 1960) was available to watch at Hulu I decided to take advantage of their 7-day trial membership offer.

According to Chris D.’s Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film and Mark Schilling’s No Borders No Limits: Nikkatsu Action Cinema, EVERYTHING GOES WRONG was Suzuki’s 17th film. The hard working director gained a reputation for making stylish crime pictures with noir influences that appealed to Japanese youth eager for a new kind of cinema that reflected their own frustrations and fears. Unsurprisingly, Nikkatsu asked Suzuki to help them revive the popular “Sun Tribe” genre with EVERYTHING GOES WRONG.

The so-called “Sun Tribe” was a youth subculture in Japan (much like the “Greasers” in the US or the “Teddy Boys” in England) that borrowed their style from the Hawaiian Islands. Sun Tribe members liked to lighten their hair, wear Hawaiian shirts and enjoyed parties on the beach but they also listened to jazz and admired American hot rod culture. Sun Tribe films became popular in Japan during the mid 1950s following the release of films like SEASON OF THE SUN (1956), CRAZED FRUIT (1956) and PUNISHMENT ROOM (1956). These youth-orientated movies were influenced by American films such as Nicholas Ray’s THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1949) and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1956) as well as juvenile delinquent B-Movies distributed by API (American Pictures International) and produced by the likes of Roger Corman. These quickly cobbled together productions typically featured fast cars, faster women and catchy rock ‘n’ roll tunes. The Sun Tribe films scandalized Japan and widespread panic about their influence on teenagers caused studios to stop making them but in 1960 Nikkatsu Studio decided to revive the genre and began producing movies like Suzuki’s EVERYTHING GOES WRONG as well as THE WARPED ONES (1960).

EVERYTHING GOES WRONG opens with footage from inside a theater showing what appears to be a Japanese WW2 propaganda film titled FIGHT TIL THE LAST DROP OF BLOOD. However, we soon discover that Suzuki is using this faux war film made up of stock news footage to establish his movie’s underlying theme about the long-term effects of war while indirectly thumbing his nose at the Japanese film industry. These bold social gestures combined with the director’s uninhibited filmmaking methods earned Suzuki a notorious reputation at Nikkatsu. They also gained him a wide base of young fans that appreciated his rebellious spirit and could sympathize with the alienation expressed in his films.

Following the disorientating opening minutes of EVERYTHING GOES WRONG we’re introduced to a group of troubled youths that roam the streets of Tokyo like a pack of rabid wild dogs. The group includes petty thieves, rapists, and various other criminals including a troubled young man called Jiro (Tamio Kawachi). Jiro lives alone with his mother (Tomoko Naraoka) while mourning the loss of his father who was killed by a Japanese tank in WW2. The irony and tragedy of his father’s death weigh heavily on Jiro who has become increasingly frustrated by his mother’s devotion to a married businessman, Keigo Nanbara (Shinsuke Ashida). Jiro’s torn between the possibility of becoming a career criminal or a company man himself, which appears to be the only future choices awaiting him. Throughout the film, Jiro is pursued by a sassy and determined girl named Toshimi Tani (Yoshiko Yatsu/ Yoshiku Nezu/Ryoko Fukutsu – I’ve seen the actresses’ name translated three different ways and I can’t be certain which spelling is correct). She’s friendly with another girl called Etsuko (Shinako Nakagawa) who is desperate to get an abortion after she discovers that she’s pregnant with the child of her selfish live-in lover. The lives of all these troubled souls eventually collide in Suzuki’s relentless neo-noir turning it into one of the director’s more sensitive and nihilistic films.

Suzuki’s early films are too often dismissed by critics who refer to them as uninspired “program pictures” and overlook their abundant style and social themes but EVERYTHING GOES WRONG is one of the more interesting and challenging youth movies that emerged from the Japanese New Wave. At the time, heavy-handed studio executives ran the Japanese film industry much like early Hollywood. Despite the restrictions, rambunctious directors like Suzuki were able to reshape the routine material they were given and in the process, their films developed a distinct look and sound. Suzuki’s ability to indirectly tackle important social and economic issues facing postwar Japan such as the effects of poverty and prostitution with a pop art sensibility is uniquely noteworthy. And his use of natural exteriors and extended tracking shots mirror what was happening in the French New Wave.

It’s impossible to watch EVERYTHING GOES WRONG without being reminded of Jean-Luc Godard’s critically renowned BREATHLESS (co-written by François Truffaut), which was released the same year. But unlike Godard’s film, which never lets you forget you’re watching an homage, Suzuki’s EVERYTHING GOES WRONG is less self-conscious about its influences and more interested in charting new ground and directly questioning the status quo. In that regard, it’s a much more pointed and powerful film. Throughout Suzuki’s oeuvre the director continually accentuates the frustrations of his country’s disillusioned and disenfranchised youth while ushering in a new kind of Japanese cinema.

One of the film’s many highlights is a minute long tracking shot reminiscent of the magnificent opening in Orson Welles’ TOUCH OF EVIL (1958). About an hour into the film Suzuki’s camera (guided by cinematographer Izumi Hagiwara) follows Keigo Nanbara out of a bar while he desperately searches for Jiro who has stolen a car and run off with his girlfriend. The camera cuts to young Etsuko as she wearily wanders the street in a state of distress over her unexpected pregnancy. After we see Etsuko stumble down some subway stairs, Suzuki’s camera slowly moves up and away, and we see Keigo Nanbara come into frame again from an apparent crane shot overlooking the crowded streets of Tokyo. Simultaneously, Jiro and his girlfriend drive by in their stolen sports car. This inspired scene unfolds quickly and you might miss it if you blink but it impressed me so much that as always, I found myself in complete awe of Suzuki’s directing skills. Another filmmaker could have used a moment like that to open or close their film with a loud “Look at me!” but for Suzuki it’s just one more creative detail that transforms and redefines the movie’s simple narrative. This is a film that’s loaded with memorable framing choices and visual eye-candy. EVERYTHING GOES WRONG also boasts an incredible jazz-infused soundtrack by composer Keitarō Miho that literally drives the plot, punctuating the script’s incredible highs and desperate lows. Simply put, this is great filmmaking.

The only way that you can currently see EVERYTHING GOES WRONG is at Hulu. Hulu’s streaming service is easy to use and as should be evident from the images I’ve included, the film looked terrific and was presented in widescreen with legible white subtitles. Hopefully Criterion will release another batch of Seijun Suzuki movies on DVD soon because his early films are still in desperate need of reevaluation and film fans like myself can’t get enough of the director’s amazing body of work.

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16 Responses Seijun Suzuki’s EVERYTHING GOES WRONG (1960)
Posted By Tom S : September 15, 2011 5:28 pm

Some good news on the Suzuki-Criterion front, at least- they announced that they’re rereleasing Tokyo Drifer and Branded to Kill on blu-ray in December. Hopefully that will lead to further full releases, or at least an Eclipse set.

The description of this one reminds me a bit of Pigs and Battleships, another early-ish movie from a prolific and stylish Japanese director, oriented around youth and the repellent things Japanese culture tried to paper over. It’s always interesting to see the transitional works between the relatively down-to-Earth things guys like Suzuki, Imamura, and Oshima made for the studios and the completely off the wall stuff they were moving towards- it’s like Spartacus, for Kubrick.

Posted By Tom S : September 15, 2011 5:28 pm

Some good news on the Suzuki-Criterion front, at least- they announced that they’re rereleasing Tokyo Drifer and Branded to Kill on blu-ray in December. Hopefully that will lead to further full releases, or at least an Eclipse set.

The description of this one reminds me a bit of Pigs and Battleships, another early-ish movie from a prolific and stylish Japanese director, oriented around youth and the repellent things Japanese culture tried to paper over. It’s always interesting to see the transitional works between the relatively down-to-Earth things guys like Suzuki, Imamura, and Oshima made for the studios and the completely off the wall stuff they were moving towards- it’s like Spartacus, for Kubrick.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 15, 2011 6:28 pm

I hate to admit this but I still don’t own a blu-ray player. I realize it’s shameful at this point but I haven’t had the desire (or the extra income) to replace my all-region DVD player and there’s no way I can replace all my old DVDs. I do own almost all the original Criterion Suzuki films and I’m sure the blu-ray discs will look amazing.

There’s definitely elements of Suzuki’s more radical work in EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. From the themes he tackles to the way he chooses to shoot particular scenes. I only wish more of his earlier films were available on DVD in the US. You can get some of them in Japan but they rarely if ever have subtitles, which is frustrating if you don’t speak Japanese. I’m so tired of reading dismissive comments about his early films usually from people who haven’t seen them. When you come across films like this and UNDERWORLD BEAUTY and realize he was creating great work right out of the gate.

On a side note, I hope no one goes to Wikipedia for info about this film. Their description of the movie is way off base on many important points and left me scratching my head wondering if I’d seen the same film. And if anyone happens to know what Yoshiko Yatsu/Yoshiku Nezu/Ryoko Fukutsu’s actual name is, do tell! Wikipedia & IMDB list it differently and one book I own has another spelling.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 15, 2011 6:28 pm

I hate to admit this but I still don’t own a blu-ray player. I realize it’s shameful at this point but I haven’t had the desire (or the extra income) to replace my all-region DVD player and there’s no way I can replace all my old DVDs. I do own almost all the original Criterion Suzuki films and I’m sure the blu-ray discs will look amazing.

There’s definitely elements of Suzuki’s more radical work in EVERYTHING GOES WRONG. From the themes he tackles to the way he chooses to shoot particular scenes. I only wish more of his earlier films were available on DVD in the US. You can get some of them in Japan but they rarely if ever have subtitles, which is frustrating if you don’t speak Japanese. I’m so tired of reading dismissive comments about his early films usually from people who haven’t seen them. When you come across films like this and UNDERWORLD BEAUTY and realize he was creating great work right out of the gate.

On a side note, I hope no one goes to Wikipedia for info about this film. Their description of the movie is way off base on many important points and left me scratching my head wondering if I’d seen the same film. And if anyone happens to know what Yoshiko Yatsu/Yoshiku Nezu/Ryoko Fukutsu’s actual name is, do tell! Wikipedia & IMDB list it differently and one book I own has another spelling.

Posted By Chris D. : September 15, 2011 7:48 pm

I really hope they’ll be releasing an Eclipse set of early Suzuki, with this one included. A few years ago I gave a list of Nikkatsu titles to a friend of mine (who may want to remain nameless) who was helping to represent Criterion/Janus Films in buying some Nikkatsu titles and EVERYTHING GOES WRONG was at the top of the list. It is easily as good if not better than of the other great “sun tribe” films, i.e. Kon Ichikawa’s PUNISHMENT ROOM and Kurahara’s THE WARPED ONES (which coincidentally just came out in a Kurahara Eclipse set). EVERYTHING GOES WRONG also has one of the all-time great shock endings for a JD film.

Posted By Chris D. : September 15, 2011 7:48 pm

I really hope they’ll be releasing an Eclipse set of early Suzuki, with this one included. A few years ago I gave a list of Nikkatsu titles to a friend of mine (who may want to remain nameless) who was helping to represent Criterion/Janus Films in buying some Nikkatsu titles and EVERYTHING GOES WRONG was at the top of the list. It is easily as good if not better than of the other great “sun tribe” films, i.e. Kon Ichikawa’s PUNISHMENT ROOM and Kurahara’s THE WARPED ONES (which coincidentally just came out in a Kurahara Eclipse set). EVERYTHING GOES WRONG also has one of the all-time great shock endings for a JD film.

Posted By suzidoll : September 16, 2011 5:28 pm

I am with you on avoiding Blu-ray. I, too, don’t want to change my current set-up (VHS/DVD combo player), which suits all my needs as a writer/teacher perfectly for something that won’t work as well for me.

By the way, I just got Pale Flower in the mail to watch, based on your blog post. I’ll let you know what I think.

Posted By suzidoll : September 16, 2011 5:28 pm

I am with you on avoiding Blu-ray. I, too, don’t want to change my current set-up (VHS/DVD combo player), which suits all my needs as a writer/teacher perfectly for something that won’t work as well for me.

By the way, I just got Pale Flower in the mail to watch, based on your blog post. I’ll let you know what I think.

Posted By JonasEB : September 17, 2011 8:43 am

Blu-ray:

You can get region free Blu-ray players at Best-Buy and Wal-Mart for less than $100 but the caveat is that you can’t update the firmware – these machines will lose that valuable capability if you update. After two years I haven’t had to update my locked player, so if you aren’t interested in mainstream products with useless tech features like the Transformers series you can probably avoid this without trouble.

And just a reminder: You don’t have to replace anything you don’t want to – Blu-ray players always play DVDs.

Posted By JonasEB : September 17, 2011 8:43 am

Blu-ray:

You can get region free Blu-ray players at Best-Buy and Wal-Mart for less than $100 but the caveat is that you can’t update the firmware – these machines will lose that valuable capability if you update. After two years I haven’t had to update my locked player, so if you aren’t interested in mainstream products with useless tech features like the Transformers series you can probably avoid this without trouble.

And just a reminder: You don’t have to replace anything you don’t want to – Blu-ray players always play DVDs.

Posted By Jenni : September 19, 2011 9:17 pm

My son is a marine, stationed in Japan. It has been so facsinating listening to his stories of living there,experiencing a different culture. To try and see the culture as best as I can, I’ve been watching a lot of Japanese movies that TCM was airing late at night on Sundays. I’m even reading Shogun! Anyhow, this film sounds interesting; about the Japanese baby boomers. Wondering if they are culturally similar to US baby boomers in anyway? Both groups being raised by parents wanting to get their worlds back to some sort of normalcy and peace after the upheaval and horrors of WWII.

Btw, my son said for some reason Tommy Lee Jones, is all over soda machines, and in Japan, Jones is called “The Boss!”

Posted By Jenni : September 19, 2011 9:17 pm

My son is a marine, stationed in Japan. It has been so facsinating listening to his stories of living there,experiencing a different culture. To try and see the culture as best as I can, I’ve been watching a lot of Japanese movies that TCM was airing late at night on Sundays. I’m even reading Shogun! Anyhow, this film sounds interesting; about the Japanese baby boomers. Wondering if they are culturally similar to US baby boomers in anyway? Both groups being raised by parents wanting to get their worlds back to some sort of normalcy and peace after the upheaval and horrors of WWII.

Btw, my son said for some reason Tommy Lee Jones, is all over soda machines, and in Japan, Jones is called “The Boss!”

Posted By Sophia | The Cinephile : September 21, 2011 8:34 am

[...] Kimbery Lindbergs on Seijun Suzuki’s Everything Goes Wrong (1960): “One of the film’s many highlights is a minute long tracking shot reminiscent of the magnificent opening in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). About an hour into the film Suzuki’s camera (guided by cinematographer Izumi Hagiwara) follows Keigo Nanbara out of a bar while he desperately searches for Jiro who has stolen a car and run off with his girlfriend. The camera cuts to young Etsuko as she wearily walks the street in distress over her unexpected pregnancy. After we see Etsuko stumble down some subway stairs Suzuki’s camera slowly moves up and away, and from an apparent crane shot overlooking the crowded streets of Tokyo, we see Keigo Nanbara come into frame again just as Jiro and his girlfriend drive by in their stolen sports car. This inspired moment unfolds quickly and you might miss it if you blink but it impressed me so much that I found myself in awe of Suzuki’s skills. Another director could have used a moment like that to open or close their film with a loud “Look at me!” but for Suzuki it’s just one more creative detail that transforms the movie’s simple narrative. This is a film that’s loaded with memorable directing choices and visual eye-candy. Everything Goes Wrong also boasts an incredible jazz infused soundtrack by composer Keitarō Miho that literally drives the plot, punctuating the script’s incredible highs and desperate lows. Simply put, this is great filmmaking.” [...]

Posted By Sophia | The Cinephile : September 21, 2011 8:34 am

[...] Kimbery Lindbergs on Seijun Suzuki’s Everything Goes Wrong (1960): “One of the film’s many highlights is a minute long tracking shot reminiscent of the magnificent opening in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). About an hour into the film Suzuki’s camera (guided by cinematographer Izumi Hagiwara) follows Keigo Nanbara out of a bar while he desperately searches for Jiro who has stolen a car and run off with his girlfriend. The camera cuts to young Etsuko as she wearily walks the street in distress over her unexpected pregnancy. After we see Etsuko stumble down some subway stairs Suzuki’s camera slowly moves up and away, and from an apparent crane shot overlooking the crowded streets of Tokyo, we see Keigo Nanbara come into frame again just as Jiro and his girlfriend drive by in their stolen sports car. This inspired moment unfolds quickly and you might miss it if you blink but it impressed me so much that I found myself in awe of Suzuki’s skills. Another director could have used a moment like that to open or close their film with a loud “Look at me!” but for Suzuki it’s just one more creative detail that transforms the movie’s simple narrative. This is a film that’s loaded with memorable directing choices and visual eye-candy. Everything Goes Wrong also boasts an incredible jazz infused soundtrack by composer Keitarō Miho that literally drives the plot, punctuating the script’s incredible highs and desperate lows. Simply put, this is great filmmaking.” [...]

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 22, 2011 1:23 pm

Chris – I hope Criterion listened to your suggestions. Maybe we can expect more Nikkatsu titles titles from them in the future? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!

Suzi – I hope you enjoy PALE FLOWER once you see it! It’s less commercial and more avant-garde than EVERYTHING GOES WRONG but I think both films are well worth a look.

Jenni – I hope your son is enjoying his time in Japan. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan 3 times and each time I’ve fallen in love with the people and the country more. The Japanese baby boomers definitely share a lot of similarities with American baby boomers as well as other baby boomers around the world. Since the country was occupied by America for decades, American pop culture became hugely popular with Japanese teens especially throughout the ’50s and ’60s.

And thanks for sharing that story about Tommy Lee Jones! I love Jones and I’m fascinated by the different ways that Japan still absorbs our pop culture and appreciates our Hollywood icons.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : September 22, 2011 1:23 pm

Chris – I hope Criterion listened to your suggestions. Maybe we can expect more Nikkatsu titles titles from them in the future? I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!

Suzi – I hope you enjoy PALE FLOWER once you see it! It’s less commercial and more avant-garde than EVERYTHING GOES WRONG but I think both films are well worth a look.

Jenni – I hope your son is enjoying his time in Japan. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Japan 3 times and each time I’ve fallen in love with the people and the country more. The Japanese baby boomers definitely share a lot of similarities with American baby boomers as well as other baby boomers around the world. Since the country was occupied by America for decades, American pop culture became hugely popular with Japanese teens especially throughout the ’50s and ’60s.

And thanks for sharing that story about Tommy Lee Jones! I love Jones and I’m fascinated by the different ways that Japan still absorbs our pop culture and appreciates our Hollywood icons.

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