Oshima’s “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief”



Ôshima showed female breasts often in “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief,” (Shinjuku dorobô nikki, 1969), an incomprehensible mishmash of 60s rebellion (contempt for elders), fetishism, and peculiar flashes in and out of color (mostly red).

After an opening chase of a suspected thief, he is captured and is forced to strip down, and then terrorizes his pursuers when they see his tattoo of a rose (the tattoo signals that he is a yakuza, I don’t think that the particular figure of a rose strikes terror).92349a62670ac21ee672ca95baa9f78f.jpg


Then an effeminate young man, Torio, who will claim his name is “Birdy Hilltop” (Yokoo Tadanori) steals Jean Genet’s A Thief’s Journal and two other books, is apprehended by Suzuki Umeko (Yokoyama Rie) a female employee of the gigantic Kinokuniya bookstore, and frog-marched into the office of the owner, who is bemused and inscribed a book he wrote to the thief and gives them money with which to buy sex. Stranger things happen to the two in the rest of the movie, including a prolonged immersion in a kabuki street troupe.

There are frequent intertitles with the irrelevant information of the time in various cities around the globe, and recurrences of the title “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief.” There’s also a prolonged session with a therapist who wants Torio and Umeko to strip down to get in touch with their feelings (or, more likely, to titillate him) and a group (therapy?) of men boasting that they are having good sex. There are also some very badly sung songs, and a collage of quotations (probably inspired by Godard throwing them at the audience).

The time capsule is completed with shots of some 1968 riot with no indication of what it was about. Heavy with jump cuts, the would-be madcap (but IMO only haphazard) movie strikes me as a time capsule to discard rather than try to figure out.


I was amused at an oddly dressed trio on the roof producing the illusion of a downpour of rain for a couple inside having sex who are also being viewed by Torio and Uemeko.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray


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