Deadly sibling rivalry among the affluent and alienated postwar “sun tribe”

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Taiyozoku (Sun Tribe) was coined to describe the rich, bored, nihilistic, and often vicious young characters invoked in books by Ishihara Shintarô (1932-), Season of the Sun (1955) and Crazed Fruit (1956). Both became movies, the second one starring Ishihara’s younger brother, sometimes singer, not-yet much of an actor, and about to become a Japanese superstar, Ishihara Yûjirô, who was proclaimed “the Japanese James Dean,” though his characters were more decisive than those the recently deceased James Dean played.

In “Cray Fruit”/“Crazed Fruit” (Kuratta Kajitsu, 1956), the first movie directed by Nakahira Kô, Ishihara Yûjirô played the jaded older brother. Takishima Natsuhisa, who is lounging about or cruising clubs at beachfront Hayama. His younger brother, Haruji (Tsugawa Masahiki, who was born in 1940) seems more a James Dean type to me — vulnerable and yearning. (Or the yearning and vulnerable Sal Mineo, who was born in 1939, so was the same age as Tsugawa when he played in “Rebel Without a Cause.”) Haruji is romancing an older woman, Eri (Kitahara Mie, who was born in 1933). Natsu considers her out of his younger brother’s league both in looks and experience. Natsu claims to want to protect his innocent younger brother, but wants to bed Eri himself.

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Nastu learns that Eri is not just older and more experienced than Haruji, but is married to a foreigner (Harold Conway, born in 1911) who often leaves her on her own as he transacts business of some kind (there is no indication that it is illegal, nor is there any that it is legal). To buy his silence with Haruji, Eri accepts Nastu’s sexual advances.

Against his own self-conception of being a playboy who uses women without emotional involvement with them, Nastu falls in love with her, or at least becomes jealous of his brother (who eventually “goes all the way” with Eri) and of her alien husband.

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When Nastu intercepts a message from Eri to Haruji moving their trip/date one day earlier (Haruji has stayed the night in Yokohama), he goes and takes her off. When Haruji returns, he is distraught that his older brother has put the moves on the women he considers his and goes after them. They are in a sailboat, he in a faster motorboat. The end is predictable though much drawn out, shot from above.

There are a lot of closeups, particularly for a 1950s Japanese movie, and idle affluent youth (they seem more affluent than Brando’s “The Wild One,” living in some ease on their parents’ presumably newly acquired (“boom”) wealth. Their behavior in the movie and elsewhere shocked their elders—and could not have passed Hollywood Production Code strictures on adultery, fornication, murder, etc.

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(50s Japanese beachwear! Okada Masumi and Tsugawa Masahiko)

I don’t know who wrote the Hawaiian-style music (some if it sung by Ishihara Yûjirô), who the jazz-trumpet music. The score was credited to Satô Masaru (who scored such Kurosawa films as “Throne of Blood” and “Sanjuro”, plus “The Rusty Knife”) and Takemitsu Tôru, the first feature-film credit for the latter. Takemitsu’s film-score writing really took off in 1960 with Shinoda’s “Youth in Fury”/Dry Lake.”

P.S. Kitahara Mie and Ishihara Yûjirô starred together in many movies (including “The Rusty Knife” and “I Am Waiting,”) and wed in 1960, when she ceased appearing onscreen. Ishihara Shintarô became a conservative (the xenophobic Sunrise Party, which merged into the Japan Restoration Party) politician and was Governor of Tokyo from 1999 until 2012, when he moved on to the House of Representatives (for one term). Some of his later work was filmed as “The Rusty Knife,” “I Am Waiting,” (both of those starring his brother), “Pale Flower,” and “Petrified Forest.”

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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