Ôshima’s “New Wave” shocker: “Cruel Story of Youth”/”Naked Youth”

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Ôshima Nagisa’s 1960 movie “Seishun zankoku monogatari” has been titled both “Cruel Stories of Youth” and “Naked Youth.” There is some appropriateness for both English-language titles. The Spanish DVD and the original Japanese poster have photos that are not in the movie in which the nihilistic student Kiyoshi (Kawazaku Yusuke) is wearing a swimsuit. In the movie neither underwear nor a swimsuit nor the absence of any covering is visible. So far as I could tell, he went in naked for a swim after his first rape of Mako (Kuwano Miyuki) who did not know how to swim; and his midsection is invisible in the subsequent scene (bare legs and torso are visible behind her).

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 Earlier, having rescued her from an assailant with whom she hitched a ride, Kioyshi beat up and robbed the man. This seems to him a good way to make money and to channel some of his free-floating aggressiveness, so Kioyshi demands that Mako repeat the scenario, as he follows the drivers on his motorcycle. Horio (Nihon’yanagi Hiroshi), the owner of a major company, drives her home without suggesting sexual congress, though the suggestion is only postponed and Kiyoshi’s shakedown (without a beating) follows later still and marks the downfall of their scheme, because Horio goes to the police and both the youths are arrested.

Mako is pregnant and gets an abortion from the love of her prim older sister’s life, Dr. Akimoto. I doubt the movie could have been shown in the US at the time, because of this. And the melodrama amps up some more. About 20 minutes before its end, there is a scene with the groggy Mako after her abortion and a conversation on the other side of the wall between her abortionist and her sister, with Kiyoshi piping up that seems very Oshima, followed by the ultra-melodramtic ending(s).

The unscrupulous leads are quite unsympathetic, and their elders (by a few years), Yuki and Dr. Akimoto, who have compromised their ideals are only somewhat more sympathetic. BTW, Kiyoshi also regularly takes money from an older (than the sister and the abortionist) woman. There’s some very unsteady handheld camera work away from studio sets.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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