Zigeunerweisen (1980)

Zigeunerweisen opens with its titular song played on an old turntable (as well as some gorgeous title cards in striking red played over snow falling against a pitch black night), suddenly a voice in the background, a hand sets the needle back to listen again, to be sure the sound they heard is a part of the record. What else could it be? Anything; the sinking feeling of wondering that permeates the picture. A question. Are we experiencing phenomena of our own familiar world, or are we feeling contact in some way from the world beyond? Sound cues and music interrupt an eerily silent screen, signifying what our characters' conscious minds can't verbalize. Suzuki, who in the 1960's brought us visually striking and mind-bending gangster stories now wants to tell us ghost tales. A life spent seeking, wandering exploring, admiring the devotion of others but never experiencing it in tandem. Our protagonist drinks in most scenes, out of touch with reality, when did he enter the fox's den? How can we be sure he wasn't always there, a place from which there is no escape. Suzuki imparts, not just indelible images, but indelible concepts communicated through his visual language. The difference between the two being the difference between motion picture storytelling and cinematic artistry. A fascination results, a love of death, drawn toward rot and finding it delicious. In this way each character is drawn toward that which will cause rot in their own life, the vice, the alcohol, infidelity, each delicious in its own way. What lingers is Suzuki's imagery, devoid of diegetic sound except in loud flourishes, we are hyper-aware of each color, each note, each cue to our heightened senses that the arousal of near-death emotion and moment tastes sweet, like that dying peach. Conversely, the instinct to hang on to what is gone, love a memory and be drawn into a personal torment. Nakasago longs for the geisha who resembles his wife, yet refuses to dignify that same geisha by marrying her. Time twists in on itself in Suzuki's whirlpool.

Suzuki plainly unfolds this journey into the unknown, opening on the record spinning, taking the time as we backtrack, trying to decipher what we thought we heard. Try as we might we cannot make out what is being said, no matter how many times we listen. For the film, this provides the cypher by which to read each subsequent occurrence. Contradictory tales of the fate of three beggars, only to be replaced by the next generation, but what really happened? Was there an affair? Even the murder that opens the film is left open. Suzuki uses each tool of the cinema as a new brush stroke on canvas, recurring locales to continue to deepen their mystery, recall earlier mysteries to mind. That stone tunnel, the gateway as travel through so many times to arrive at Nakasago's residence, the doors seeming to open and close themselves so as to fit the theatricality of the moment. Nothing is as it seems and no occurrence happens in a real sense that we can be sure of, like all things in the film we are sure we heard something, sure we saw something, but it is too faint to make out, we only know what we perceived. Suzuki's poetic progressions and the dulled tones of his celluloid