We all know that auteur Hayao Miyazaki polished his chops on a work for hire Lupin film, the delightful Castle of Cagliostro. But what about the OTHER auteur who slaved in the Lupin salt mines? That’s right, Seijun Suzuki, following his long blacklist, co-directed his own Lupin flick, the much weirder and rather less delightful Gold of Babylon.
Oddly, where Cagliostro felt like a dry run for the lyrical sentiment and whimsy of Miyazaki, for its first third at least, set in NYC, Babylon feels like Ralph Bakshi went on vacation to Japan and knocked out a PG-13 Lupin in between Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, full of local color and bizarre caricatures.
After that it mostly settles into more standard Lupin hijinks, with a wild international treasure hunt and Zenigata leading a team of sexy (and vastly more competent) Interpol policewomen after our heroes – albeit with an absolutely bizarre storyline involving space gods looking for gold. It’s decent enough, and has plenty of fun moments, but it never transcends its origins like Cagliostro.
By the way, minor quibble, but I find the way this film animates women’s lips very offputting.