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The young rebel Juro has to deal with an environment of crime and prostitution, and the impact of its choices on personal relationships: one with his mother, with the lover of the latter and with a girl in love with him.
Joe Shishido plays a tough guy with a secret agenda. His violent behavior comes to the attention of a yakuza boss who immediately recruits him. He soon tries to make a deal with a rival gang a starts a gang war. His real motivations are gradually revealed as we find out how this all ties in with the murder of a policeman shown at the beginning of the film. Written by
Fred Cabral <email@example.com>
gripping direction from a man bringing post-modernism and brutality to the forefront
I think one of the aspects of Youth of the Beast, the late genre- filmmaker master Seijun Suzuki's breakthrough, to take into account is that the story moves at a breathless pace. It's not that it is a story that is hard to follow - there are a good many characters to get to know, and after a black and white prologue (though at first I wasn't sure if it was a 'show-end-at-beginning' thing before going into full color for the majority of the film), we're put right into the physical space of this seemingly violent thug played by Jô Shishido (also named Jo here, good call) - it's that Suzuki, I think, is not so much interested in the story as in how a film MOVES. After all, it is a movie, right? Let's get that motion picture moving and vibrant and with energy. This is like a shotgun blast of 60's crime cinema that makes us feel a lot of things through a lot of intense visual choreography of the frame and what is in it (i.e. the old Scorsese axiom, cinema being a matter of what's in the frame and what's out, is paramount to Suzuki)/
Youth of the Beast is not necessarily the most remarkable film as far as the story goes, and I'm sure there have been other Yakuza films and other gangster thrillers that have similarities; in a sense this isn't unlike Yojimbo/Fistful of Dollars/Red Harvest, though this time the main character has more of a motive than in that story. What's remarkable is the direction and how the tone is brutal and yet it's staged in some creative ways. There's times when you know a character is about to lunge at someone else, or that we get a piece of visual information like a knife being held under a table or somewhere else, before that character lunges and strikes. Other times it's more about how he'll pan the camera, like when the car full of the one crime family gets ambushed by another car (the music cue here is especially, terribly exhilarating, and the rest of the score has a wonderful jazz rhythm to it), and when we see those faces of the guys with their masks on and how he pushes in.
Hell, even just how Suzuki uses color cinematography is impressive, all of those reds (the woman being whipped on the carpet), and how he'll have a backdrop like at the movie theater where the Yakuza do some of their business and a film screen projecting some movie or other is in the background of the frame. It feels like one of those moments where post-modernism is creeping in to Japanese cinema, and of course Suzuki would continue making such advances with Tokyo Drifter and particularly Branded to Kill. The movie is hard and rough, violent and the characters' motivations - well, I should say Jo, who is basically undercover playing one side and then another until it's an all-out war
are intense enough that the cast rises above what could be basic
(even boiler-plate) B-movie pulp. I don't know how much input Suzuki had on the script, but he knows how to keep his actors moving and being interesting, whether it's Jo, who is the stand-out of the film, or his 'friend' who has a thing for the ladies.
This is pulp Japanese cinematic excellence, all feeding off of a vision that is unique.
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