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Director Kinji Fukasaku was a champion for Japans post-war youth, posing and protesting why they were exploited so by business and government alike. It's easy to see the context in which the film is based. After WW2, Japan's youth were often disadvantaged in opportunities, whether in education, family or simply rootlessness; and from this felt discouraged. The government zoned in on this and ushered a lot of juveniles into cities such as Tokyo, where the film is based, to fuel the growing, yet still unstable economy. And so we have our context.
Imagine four Johnny Boys from Scorsese's mean Streets. Imagine them on a road to establish their own careers in what was still a fragile lower class and an envious one at that, especially if they were to establish their own independence. Would you think them to succeed? The economy dropped, and our flint five, jobless and impecunious, are hoarding themselves up in their old post-bust warehouse. They lack inspiration, they lack ideas. Their 'nook' in the workforce that was promised to them by the Government has morphed into a ditch. At this point, and since they are exited from their shanty condominium, we would expect them to become like the yakuzas of a Miike film, destroying themselves. And they do, yet they destroy themselves through their dreams. It's this that is the powerful theme that Fukasaku injects into our ruddy faces: that the impuissant, though they may dream of success, when on the road to it will destroy themselves inevitably and possibly only one will live the dreams of the outcasts he slipped from.
When one hits upon a plan- that they are able to create their own nook in the workforce by purchasing a truck if each of them labors for it, becoming their own bosses, deleting the dust around their trodden existence, we see hope with their eyes and wait for the purchasing of 'Independence 1' and ride with their eagerness.
But Johnny Boys they are, and their low brows are the voracious magnets for obstacles unhoppable: one falls into jail, another is cut-down by the police and the third becomes to much of a gynophiliac. Only two are left with their goal completed. Was all worthwhile? They dreamed. They tried. They faced adversity. They were willing to destroy themselves for one another. But is this what Fukasaku is aiming his camera for? To simply make a statement of will? No, in the end the two are weighed down by what has amounted to be their destiny from all their friends failings; they are left waiting for the tidal wave. The two do not jump for joy like the door-porter in Murnau's 'The Last Laugh', as he wears his suit which gives him worth, but simply feel destroyed and useless still.
He has made a statement about inevitability: it is not only that the youth should will, but that the government should be willing to help them, otherwise we are left 'with kids raised to die'.
Though Fukasaku is aligned in his film-making to the New Wave, with his editing styles, gangster stories and even Godardian tales of youth-here the cinematography of Takamoto Ezure, whether or not by order from Fukasuku, with it's jaunty angles, tempo-like movements and the montage and editing, reading like a New Wave piece, makes it unnecessarily seem like we are riding with their destruction for the Freanch pleasure of the site itself. This is wholly inadequate, for what Fukasaku seemed to really be trying to do was make a crashing impact of social brutality and lacrimation at what may be recurring social forces, how the failings repeat themselves, again and again. He fails here, and by watching it seems more like the crashing impact of the car crash at the end of Godards' Le Mepris, a statement about film. We can't get past the dolly droll of stylizations to the simplistic, raw statement that was so near to cinematic disclosure. Instead it reads like Pierre Belmondo and Anna Karenina in a Godard film, colorful sticky tape stuck upon the day with no mind for the day after tomorrow, holding up a line of stylized celluloid sunglasses for our pleasure.
However, it comes down to the viewer to gain something from a film, and if you watch this you will see and feel the social discussions I have talked about. They may or may not affect you strongly, since the film is muddled and confused, ununified- yet the story exists, it is strong. The celluloid exists, it is stylistic.
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