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Maverick Japanese director Suzuki dies – Maestro Skrowaczewski dead


TOKYO, Feb 22, (Agencies): Japanese B-movie director, Seijun Suzuki, whose prolific output from gangster films to fantasies influenced international filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino, has died, his former studio announced on Wednesday. He was 93.

Suzuki died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Feb 13, the Nikkatsu studio said in a statement expressing “deep gratitude and respect to his great achievements”.

In a career spanning five decades, Suzuki’s works “had a great influence on movie fans and film makers around the world,” the company said.

Though Suzuki was not widely known among audiences outside Japan, he had an impact on other directors.

The Hollywood Reporter said he inspired filmmakers including Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar-wai and fellow countryman Takeshi Kitano.

Suzuki’s cinematic style was recently described by “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle as “like musicals… but with guns”.

Debuting in 1956, Suzuki directed B-movies at Nikkatsu for 12 years, with his films drawing attention for a unique and vivid sense of colour that his fans came to call “Seijun bigaku (Seijun aesthetic).”

But his work, sometimes derided as strange and hard to understand, wasn’t for everyone.

Kinema-Junposha, which publishes movie-related magazines and books, said Suzuki was fired in 1968 after releasing his gangster opus “Branded to Kill”.

Nikkatsu’s president deemed his films to be “incomprehensible”.


Suzuki did not return to filmmaking for a decade, despite an outcry from his colleagues and fans as well as court proceedings.

But he roared back in the early 1980s with the surreal mystery “Zigeunerweisen”, which won the Honourable Mention at the 31st Berlin International Film Festival.

His last film was “Operetta Tanukigoten” (“Princess Raccoon”) in 2005, a fantasy in which a prince falls in love with a racoon princess, starring Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi.

Suzuki, known for his long white hair, white beard and sheepish demeanour, also appeared in movies and TV dramas as an actor, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Chazelle name-checked Suzuki during a visit to Japan last month when asked if he had included any references to other films in the movie.

“I feel like I took a little” from Suzuki’s “Tokyo Drifter” as well as “his whole kind of oeuvre of movies,” Chazelle said.

“His super wide frames and very pop-art colours — they feel like musicals to me, but with guns,” Chazelle said.

Former longtime Minnesota Orchestra music director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who conducted major orchestras in England, Japan and other countries, died Tuesday after suffering a second stroke earlier this month, the orchestra said. He was 93.

Skrowaczewski’s family told Minnesota Orchestra president Kevin Smith that he died at a suburban Minneapolis hospital, according to an orchestra spokeswoman. An earlier stroke last fall ended Skrowaczewski’s decades of conducting.

Skrowaczewski’s last concerts were with the Minnesota Orchestra in October 2016, conducting works by Anton Bruckner, his specialty.

Skrowaczewski, pronounced skroh-vah-chehf-skee, led the Minnesota Orchestra for 19 years, starting in 1960, but served on its artistic staff for 56 years. During his tenure as music director, Skrowaczewski was instrumental in the creation of Orchestra Hall, the orchestra’s home in downtown Minneapolis that opened in 1974. He also was a champion of new music, a celebrated composer and an advocate for the orchestra’s union musicians during a 16-month lockout.

“It is hard to express all that Maestro Skrowaczewski has meant to the Minnesota Orchestra,” the orchestra said in a post on its Facebook page. “Although he traveled the world conducting major orchestras until just last year, he continued to make Minnesota his home across the decades.”


In a statement, Skowaczewski’s management company, Intermusica of London, said he “commanded a rare position on the musical scene worldwide as both a renowned conductor and highly regarded composer.” The company noted he collaborated with Shostakovich, Lutoslawski, Penderecki and Andrzej Panufnik.

The native of Poland began studying the piano and violin at age 4. He composed his first symphonic work at 7 and gave his first public recital at 11. He won the International Competition for Conductors in Rome in 1956.

Other posts include with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, England, from 1984 to 1991, and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony in Tokyo from 2007 to 2010.

He also suffered a stroke in November 2016, which forced him to cancel upcoming appearances with the Dallas Symphony and other orchestras.

A memorial service to celebrate Skrowaczewski’s legacy is scheduled for March 28 at Orchestra Hall.

Fusion pioneer Larry Coryell, one of the first guitarists to win an audience bringing a rock edge to the jazz guitar, has died. He was 73.

The guitarist, who kept a busy recording and touring schedule and had concerts planned well into 2017, died of natural causes at a New York hotel Sunday after playing two nights at the city’s Iridium club, his publicist said.

Coryell was best known for his 1970 album “Spaces” in which he stayed true to jazz but brought a new rock power and psychedelic ambience to the music, on which he teamed up with pianist Chick Corea and fellow guitarist John McLaughlin.

Coryell came to be known in some jazz circles as the “Godfather of Fusion” although jazz legend Miles Davis defined fusion with his rockier, improvisational album “Brew,” also released in 1970.

Born in Texas and raised in Seattle, Coryell arrived in New York in the 1960s and immersed himself in the jazz scene but also studied classical guitar and sitar.

In his autobiography, “Improvising: My Life in Music,” Coryell said he had wanted with fellow artists to make a “creative statement” that goes in a “modern/progressive direction.”

“We wanted to head towards combining the integrity of jazz with some of the glitz and excitement of rock and funk. We felt it was a combination of styles whose time had come,” he wrote.

Coryell later left New York for Florida and pursued much of his live career in Europe and Japan, where he said he found audiences more receptive to jazz fusion.

Coryell, a Buddhist, often embraced social issues in his music, if abstractly.

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