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My Dream is to Die: Why You Should Watch ‘Branded to Kill’

“A killer mustn’t be human. He must be tough and cool.”
Branded To Kill Butterflies
By  · Published on April 14th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the unconventional Yakuza classic Branded to Kill.

Theoretically, if you were compiling a list of the coolest movies ever made, you’d have (have!) to include Branded to Kill.

Released in 1967 and directed by Nikkatsu Company mainstay Seijun SuzukiBranded to Kill is the dictionary definition of the Japanese New Wave: an experimental, surreal, pop-art neo-noir that cemented Suzuki’s status as an artistic bad boy.

Jô Shishido is Gorô Hanada (a.k.a. Number 3), an assassin with a fetish for steamed rice (no, really) who finds himself on the wrong end of a crime syndicate when the hitman goofs his latest assignment. Knowing the yakuza don’t take kindly to mistakes, Number 3 finds himself in a fight for his life — and the new death-obsessed femme fatale (Annu Mari) in his life isn’t helping!

A commercial pratfall in its time, Branded to Kill remained inaccessible for many years thanks in part to the studio’s boneheaded decision to wrongfully terminate Suzuki (ostensibly for the film’s lack of success). While the whole kerfuffle resulted in the director’s blacklisting until the late 1970s, the affair also turned Suzuki into a local cinematic legend long before he achieved cult status in the West.

It’s a gem that stands on its own two feet while also rewarding fans of cinema history. So without further ado, here’s an impassioned plea for why you should seek out this oddball yakuza gem:

Watch “Branded To Kill – The Unconventional Yakuza Classic”

Who made this?

This video essay on the unconventional Yakuza classic Branded to Kill is by You Have Been Watching Films. United Kingdom-based writer Oliver Bagshaw produces the channel, creating video essays on an assortment of movies, from cult to classic strains of cinema history. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here.

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.