Two interwoven stories. The first is a biography of anarchist Sakae Osugi which follows his relationship with three women in the 1920s. The second centers around two 1960s' students researching Osugi's theories.
An engineer's wife returns home with a lost teenager. A man posing as her dad tries to get her back, causing the engineer to recall his youth as a revolutionary, obscured by dreamlike disruptions of time and space, fantasy and reality.
A spontaneous romance blooms between Kawamura, a professor touring Europe, and Naoko, a married woman living in Paris, scarred by the Nagasaki atomic bombings. The two protagonists travel around Europe trying to find themselves.
This is the first movie directed by Yoshishige (Kiju) Yoshida, later to become a movie-making icon of the imaginary movement known as the Japanese New Wave. His debut film Good-for-Nothing obviously isn't as good as his later masterpieces, but is interesting enough and seems to borrow some aspects from the French New Wave, seeing how Yoshida was influenced by European avant-garde cinema back then.
In the '60s, movie studios like Shochiku entered a crisis of sorts because the TVs had appeared and less people were going to the cinema. And so, these studios decided to take several promising directors (like Oshima and Yoshida) under their wing and gave them almost complete creative freedom to make stories such as this one. Later, Shochiku got picky with the filmed material and many directors had to leave the studios and found their own film companies, the rest being history.
Good-for-nothing is the first (naturally) of Yoshida's youth films (seishun eiga?) and examines the subject of aimless youngsters bored out of their minds. The backbone of the story is a gang of four students, two of whom are from rich backgrounds. One of the poorer two falls in love with a rich one's father's secretary, who tries to lead him to the right path, but with a socially minded film like this you know it isn't going to work out well. The story is nothing spectacular, but is followable and entertaining enough.
This being an early Yoshida film, it's amazing that his characteristic filming style is somewhat present. Excellent widescreen framing, a jazzy soundtrack, non-repeating shots, beautiful camera-work in general, etc. While far from his later accomplishments, you can nevertheless sense the potential in the style of the film.
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