Vince Perrin | Stockton, CA USA | 08/15/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Before this movie, anti-social behavior, defiance of authority, family dysfunction, dissolute youth, unpunished violence, immorality and sexual promiscuity, even kissing, were not seen on Japanese screens. So in 1956 when it was released, just as James Dean was rebelling in America and the New Wave washing over Europe, "Crazed Fruit" became a cause celebre in Japan, filling theatres, creating a short-lived genre and influencing future filmmakers. Seen today, we may appreciate its "daring" attitudes, editing and cinematography while at the same time containing our impatience as all the familiarities play themselves out.
At a seaside resort, a jaded youth and his innocent brother lust after a young woman who is married to an older American and who is a human cypher. The brotherly triangle is resolved with two murders, but not before a really chilling sequence in which a speedboat repeatedly circles a sailboat. This story, a tad homoerotic and (unbeknownst) told in flashback, may be cliché but the details were new to Japanese audiences (water-skiing! sunbathing! pair dancing!) and owe much to European and American movies; note the homages to George Stevens' "A Place in the Sun" (water sports, sudden swooping close-ups, that radio on the dock.)
By issuing this DVD, The Criterion Collection rightly assigns the picture its proper place in the pantheon of world cinema. Film historian Donald Richie, in his informed commentary, maybe makes more of its relevance than the movie actually earns; a second viewing with Richie is oddly more rewarding than a first viewing without him. That's because period context is crucial to our interest. "Crazed Fruit" was a breakthrough in the evolution of Japanese filmmaking; thanks to it, the movies that came after were more complex, innovative and sophisticated."
D. Thomas Hardison | Durham, NC USA | 08/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having lived in Japan for seven years, and taught at a fine University during that time, I saw many young people who were on the fringe of society....even now, and it was unnerving to see the total disregard for others in this film so early after the war. That attitude is still prevalent in Japan.
The fact that the attitude seems rather universal in Western societies, and increasingly all Asian societies as well, the young people grow into adulthood, keeping their adolescence.
It surely fosters the ME, ME, ME behavior and makes real human compassion difficult in light of this obsessive selfishness.
I cringe at some of the scenes in the film because it is such raw reality. Beautiful people doing not so beautiful things,
is a fascination for many people, so I think the film will be an interesting wake up call for our present time."
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 08/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
Penned by Ishihara Shintaro, the same ultraconservative politician-author who wrote The Japan that can Say No, Crazed Fruit depicts the lives of privileged Japanese young people during the 1950s. Unburdened by Japan's militaristic past that their parents' generation had to endure, the members of the Sun Tribe, a name given to certain groups of teenagers during this era, were able to enjoy the early fruits of the early capitalist Japan. However, well aware the faults and frailties of the previous couple of generations, these teenagers desire to toss aside traditional values and to create new ones. Yet, if this film could be used as an example, the only things they seem to gain are material items and boredom.
The central characters of this film are the brothers Natsuhisa and Haruji. Seasoned in the ways of the Sun Tribe, Natsuhisa spends his days in such "decadent" activities such as playing the ukulele, water skiing, and playing cards. Joined by his mixed blood friend Frank, the duo, along with a few other friends, seem to do little more than chase after girls and hang out at the beach. The younger brother Haruji, however, is still a bit naïve and while not fully engraining himself in his brother's lifestyle, obviously wants to make an impression on the older boys
One day at the train station Haruji encounters a young girl and is immediately smitten with her squeaky clean image. Eventually Haruji and Eri become a couple and the young man is elated because of his good fortune. Besides a few innocent first kisses, their relationship remains quite tame and it seems the young lovebirds are willing to take things slow. Yet, of course, a dark cloud begins to hover over their relationship when Natsuhisa becomes jealous of his younger brother and they worsen even more when Natsuhisa discovers that Eri is not quite the girl she makes herself out to be.
Quite tame by today's standards, and in comparison to the original novella, Crazed Fruit caused quite a stir back during the 1950s because of its depiction of teenagers drinking, sleeping around, and getting into fights. However, it helped usher in a new type of film that focused on teenagers. Instead of depicting youths doing all in their power to strengthen Japan, these new films depicted dispirited youths suffering from ennui whose only care was to fill empty time.
Stylized, Over-the-Top Look at a Love Triangle Among Bored Y
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 07/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's ironic that this movie has an establishing scene in the Kamakura train station, the same locale used by master director Yasujiro Ozu in his classic home dramas, "Late Spring" and "Early Summer". But that's where the similarity ends, as this jazz-infused, troubled-youth 1956 film is truly the antithesis of Ozu - tawdry, explicit and in-your-face. If you were to watch this movie solely on the basis of the campy trailer that comes with the Criterion Collection DVD, you would think you were going to watch something quite cheesy and exploitative similar to the cheapjack American teenage rebellion films of the period like "High School Confidential" and "The Beat Generation" - all raging hormones, James Dean wannabes, pervasive use of back projection, deep shadows and saucy saxophone riffs. To some degree, you would be right, but first-time director Kô Nakahira seems more inspired by French New Wave in his use of jump cuts and handheld camera shots. The stylistic touches and then-shocking sexual frankness do elevate this low-budget film but from my perspective, not really at the level that film scholar Donald Richie would have you believe in his informative commentary.
The story revolves around two restless brothers - older, predatory Natsuhisa and virginal, self-righteous Haruji - who battle over a mysterious girl named Eri, seemingly innocent and ideal at first but a more decadent character emerges as the plot unfolds. There are lots of scenes of bored, immoral youth with cash to burn and no aspirations beyond water skiing and getting drunk and laid. The love triangle inevitably leads to tragic, almost Baroque consequences in its brief, 86-minute running time with some surprisingly effective camera angles tightening the vise of the characters' illicit behavior. The performances seem rather derivative of American icons like Clift and Dean though effective within this context - Masahiko Tsugawa effortlessly brings out the teen angst in Haruji, Yujirô Ishihara portrays the jaded horn dog that Natsuhisa has become with abandon and a certain élan, and pretty Mie Kitahara does manage to elicit sympathy to a character that seems to reveal one moral weakness after another. I have to admit the over-the-top elements are what makes this film memorable - the great title, the foreboding clarinet solos and twangy Hawaiian guitars of Masaru Sato's and Toru Takemitsu's insinuating score; Masumi Okada as Frank, a half-white, half-Japanese observer of the brotherly unraveling (and by default, the film's moral conscience); and the extended and truly suspenseful circling boat sequence at the end. Definitely take a look if you want a peek at the nihilistic youth culture of mid-1950's Japan, certainly a universal theme during that period."