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The Warped Ones

Posted by martinteller on January 28, 2012

Akira is a young petty criminal, just out of jail for pickpocketing.  With his two friends (a wannabe yakuza and his hooker girlfriend) in tow, he sets about terrorizing square society at large, and specifically the fiancée of the man who set him up.  I’m not very familiar with the Japanese “sun tribe” films of the late 50’s/early 60’s, movies that showcased restless, disillusioned youths in the vein of Marlon Brando and James Dean, but much wilder.  Several years ago I watched Crazed Fruit and although I didn’t love it at the time (maybe I would appreciate it more nowadays), I thought it had some fine elements.

The merits of this film lie largely in its attitude.  The style is as reckless and carefree as its protagonist, whose only passions in life are jazz (“real jazz” as he frequently scolds poseurs who prefer something more watered down), sun, sex (including rape) and small crimes.  While the soundtrack booms with heavy, improvisational jazz, the camera whips around untethered, often reaching up towards the sun that Akira manically basks in.  These characters are not to be pitied or sympathized with, although their rebellion is not entirely groundless.  They prostitute themselves to Americans and American culture.  At one point Akira laments, “Blacks created jazz.  Then whities stole it.  And now we copy it.  We’re the worst!”  Perhaps as a reflection of the Japanese culture as a whole, Akira is seeking a new identity and coming up empty.  Something needs to be shaken up, but what?

Rebellious youth can make for exhilarating films that question societal norms, for example A Clockwork Orange and Quadrophenia.  Kurahara isn’t asking terribly deep questions here, but he does utilize filmic technique beautifully to capture a sense of dizzy frustration.  Rating: Very Good


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