[CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH, (1960)]
Today was a bad day.
You would be shocked (dear readers) if I asserted the opposite.
No, there is no sugarcoating it.
But that’s ok. [Ah!]
Such anxiety. Such fear. Such trepidation.
Ah! That wasn’t so bad.
But don’t breathe relief too soon. [Sigh…]
We’re surrounded by morons. Condescending illiterates.
A fistful of assholes.
Yes, that Japanese up there indeed does not read Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.
Things fall apart. Shit happens. Sometimes, the shit hits the fan.
That is the story of Nagisa Oshima’s Cruel Story of Youth.
Seishun Zankoku Monogatari…that’s what it says.
Kinda like Ugetsu Mongatari (which I reviewed some time back).
And it is. More or less.
The story of Mako and Kiyoshi.
No magical powers here. This is like the Japanese version of À bout de souffle.
If we don’t understand French (and we don’t), then we really shouldn’t be fooling around with Japanese.
That is my 2 cents…me, and the royal we.
Mako and Kiyoshi.
Will they survive this cruel world?
Perhaps they must be cruel themselves to survive it?
And perhaps only Kiyoshi (cool as Jean-Paul Belmondo) is cruel?
Mako is no Jean Seberg.
She might be a coquette, but she’s not une dégueulasse.
Our film followed on the heels of Godard’s Breathless by a mere four months.
And what about Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless”?
It preceded Godard’s film by two years (1958).
Any one else out of breath???
How about those Japanese protestors?
They weren’t keen on the Anpo treaty.
[Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan]
Yeah, a mere 15 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki…and Japan was a beaten nation.
Because they joined hands with their brethren (us) who had so recently vaporized them.
And so no wonder people were protesting.
But we don’t see protests in movies.
Not real protests. Not anymore.
In fact, Japan does not even exist for the U.S. anymore.
Japan is like a house cat.
Japan protests nothing.
Their economy slides with ours.
They are between a rock and a hard place.
It is a geopolitical fault-line.
In the film we see South Koreans protesting.
This ended long ago (for us brainwashed viewers in the West).
Only the Chinese protest.
Tiananmen Square. 1989.
And CNN had a bird’s-eye view of tank man.
A bit too perfect.
But yes: every nation protests.
Except the well-behaved Japanese and South Koreans.
But what about these recent tremors?
As recently as February of this year.
Just what is going on?
Anpo is that famously robust treaty…in effect longer than anything since the Peace of Westphalia (1648).
I am reminded of my most erudite friend’s knowing focus on the war which these treaties (a series in 1648) ended.
It was a bad day for Mako. Rape.
The valiant rapist.
It is like Dostoyevsky.
Stick around and the plot thickens.
Buked and scorned by Yuki (the sister).
Youth…how cruel it is to be taken.
And then our lovers reenact The Kid with no windows (but plenty of stones).
But I’m most sad for Horio.
It’s the old man in me.
Finally the reification gets to be too much for Mako.
And a tear rolls down her cheek. In her sleep.
Busy signal. Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
A cement mixer.
Is she? No. It can’t end like that!
“This ain’t prostitution…IT’S EXTORTION! (tortion)! (torsion)!”
They call them the diamond dogs.
Oshima with a shadow play.
Kiyoshi holds Mako in the foreground.
Aki implores Yuki in the background.
[And for subtitlers everywhere, please think before you use the phrase “for old time’s sake” in a Japanese film.]
In her polka dot dress with the leeks peeking from the grocery sack.
The futility of youth.
The grimy uncertainty…the shifting sands.
The idealism made to lick the city sidewalk.
The valiant rapist saint.
And Mako, fragile, with a bloody cheek.
Excellent review again Paul , I will have to admit something to you I love Chinese and Japanese films. Some of them are great. especially the Samurai Movies Yoyi Yamada has made a series of samurai films with very little sword play mostly about class redemption and how love breaks through. Japanese and Chinese Film directors are always able to show the intimate psychological way forward . Your mention of Tianamen Square in 1989 was the day the Working class was smashed Stalinism broke forever with the Mao tse Tung Revolution and Capitalism and Imperialism emerged which now plays a vital part in Global Capitalism and Imperialism. Sorry to veer off the point wanted to comment on How Stalinism has nothing to do with Socialism but leads directly to capitalism .
thanks again for your very incisive reviews.
Yes, China is very confusing to me. Tiananmen Square seems like a great moment in history (if for no other reason than “tank man”). I must admit I have a lot to learn about communism and socialism.
I don’t really know the history of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, etc.
I never had any friends who studied this stuff. I guess it is possible to grow up in America (like me) and not understand any of this.
I wish I knew. Every day I study something new. And I am just trying to survive like everybody else.
I have Das Kapital now, but my school studies drain all my time. Maybe I am not dedicated enough. It is hard to approach Marx for the first time. I don’t have a good historical context in which to put him.
Anyway, I’m sorry for my rambling… I’m just thinking out loud.
Thank you for your comment and compliment!