A metaphysical mystery involving a university student's camera getting stolen, and the thief then committing suicide. Looking back upon the event, the situation comes to be questioned if it happened at all.
Nagisa Oshima's 1969 film Diary of a Shinjuku Thief is for sure one of the most annoyingly boring movies I've ever seen. It's a miracle I was even able to finish it. Even though Oshima denied the influence of Jean- Luc Godard, it's hard to watch a film like this and not immediately think of Godard's work (as one commenter put it, Oshima just out- Godarded Godard). Unfortunately, this movie seems to replicate the absolute worst qualities present in Godard films. Wacky inter-titles aside, the suffocating slide-show of one baffling scene after another got on my nerves pretty fast.
The film follows a story of a library shoplifter Birdy Hilltop (played by artist Tanadori Yokoo), who meets a librarian called Umeko. That's it basically. The majority of the runtime is filled with their conversations with library manager Moichi Tanabe (actual owner of the Kinokuniya library), some unexplainable surrealistic montages, a 15 minute-long discussion about sex between some random guys, rape role-play, homages to author Jean Genet in a sequence with talking books, random shifts from color to B&W (the majority of the movie is in B&W), all topped off with a student protest footage in the end. Another reference to Korean criminal Ri Chin'u (whose story inspired Oshima's film Death by Hanging) lies in the fact that Birdy, same as Ri, liked to steal books.
The movie begins and ends with a broken clock, but despite this there are numerous title screens throughout the film telling us not only the precise time around the world, but also the weather conditions. This is a small example of how uneven and confusing the entire movie is, in a possible attempt to recreate the turbulent atmosphere of the times it was made in. I don't know how a Japanese viewer might have reacted to this in 1969, but to a contemporary viewer unaware of the politics of the time, this just seems like a chaotic mess.
Present in the film is also the counter-culture artist Juro Karo and his Situation Theatre troupe. I'll go as far as to say that these are the worst aspect of the entire film. The "Ali Baba" song constantly sung by Karo is very annoying, and because it's repeated so many times, you'll have plenty of chances to get sick of it. His Situation troupe, meanwhile, claims about 25 minutes of the runtime in order to play out an avant-garde kabuki show which is one of the most boring sequences I've ever been subjected to. God, was it boring. The entire film just isn't a fulfilling viewing experience at all. It isn't enlightening, nor is it emotional, profound, original, inventive or fun. It's just hopelessly dull, confusing, lacking any rhyme or reason and overall a chore to sit through. And I hate, hate, really hate that bloody kabuki scene.
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