Friday, November 9, 2012

Cruel Story of Youth (1960)

It’s funny how the progression of time can alter a film’s impact. Take for example when “Cruel Story of Youth” was released. It was Japan in 1960 and the story centered around two rebellious teens who run off together and get pregnant. They skip classes constantly and get involved in racketeering. Worst of all, they discuss having an abortion. This side of life was shunned by viewers, creating huge controversy for Nagisa Oshima’s film (which he probably enjoyed).

If this film were released today, it wouldn’t have as strong of an impact. The abortion angle would stir the pot, but it’s nothing groundbreaking. As for the rebellious teens, that’s the farthest thing from shocking nowadays. We have hundreds of High Schoolers pregnant and dropping out of school, never even making it to college. Those that do only spend a few years removed from High School until they start getting engaged and starting a family. Today’s age moves at a more rapid pace.

The only aspect of “Cruel Story of Youth” that’s impact remains intact nowadays is the racketeering. I can’t state how it was received during it’s initial release, but I’ll state that it actually turned me off. That’s not to say it ruined the film for me. I still found it to be a solid feature from Oshima, who is a fantastic director! For me, it was a nuisance to the more dramatic elements.

I was more involved in the twisted relationship of Kiyoshi (Yûsuke Kawazu) and Makoto (Miyuki Kuwano) than I was in their seedy ways of making money. The violent outbursts and back and forth attitude was unheard of then, but fairly common now. This made for an interesting time capsule as much as it is an interesting story.

What does stand firmly today is the culture clash between Kiyoshi and her parents. They grew up strict and war torn while she is at the cusp of late night rendezvous. It doesn’t really matter what decade you originated in, you’ll eventually morph into the type of parents represented here. At least I hope so! I don’t want to hear stories twenty years from now about parents complaining that, back in their day, they gave up everything in High School and liked it!

There’s not too much more to say about “Cruel Story of Youth”. While the story itself hasn’t aged fantastically, the direction and acting have. There’s a reason Oshima is considered one of Japan’s greatest. He’s got a way of dissecting characters and shows no fear when it comes to dealing with hard topics (the way he nonchalantly handles abortion is harsher than had he forced it). The racketeering angle threw me off and did hold this back from being a favorite of his. It’s still a solid film at the end of the day!

MVT: Oshima. He handles the material quite classily and never forces it upon the viewer.

Make or Break: When Kiyoshi abruptly moves out of her parents’ house. That’s when the film and the relationship really pick up!

Final Score: 7.25/10

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