Ôshima’s 1960 “Taiyô no hakaba” (The Sun’s Burial, Tomb of the Sun) is a sort of sequel that ups the ante of alienation and violence from “Cruel Story of Youth”/”Naked Youth.” (also shot by Kawamata Takashi, though less elegantly).
A hooker by night, during the day Hanako (Kayoko Honoo) is involved in an illegal blood bank, luring in (mostly Korean) dockworkers to supply what sure looks like ketchup to me. As a prostitute, she works for the established Osaka crime syndicate headed by Ohama (Shimizu Gen), while the blood racket is a collaborative venture with the younger upstart would-be gang lord Shin (Tsugawa Masahiko). Shin is constantly changing hiding places to evade Ohama’s punishment.
Agitator (Ozawa Eitarô) is constantly raising the spectre of a Soviet invasion of Japan. In one of the bizarre scenes in a movie filled with doom and gloom, Hanako asks him if there will be slums in the new world of restored Japanese imperial glory. She does not get a clear answer, though the whole movie indicates that nothing is going to get better in the Hobbesian world of the setting sun.
A bigger mystery is why Shin tolerates violations of the yakuza code from a reluctant new recruit, Takeshi (Sasaki Isao), whereas his friend Wasu (Kawazu Iusuke, the baddest boy of “Cruel Story of Youth” unable to hold his own in the rough slum company here) is beaten up with increasing severity.
I have to say that the fights and beatings are very hokey/unbelievable. The grunge of lower-depths wardrobe is also, though some have claimed that “Burial” has a quasi-documentary look.
Aside from the unrelenting ugliness (look and action) of the movie, the profusion of characters makes the storyline difficult to follow (the theme that life is nasty, brutish, and short is clear enough). Ôshima’s fascination with downtrodden Koreans in Japan was already evident in his third movie, as rape was in his second.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray