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Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Kô Nakahira was never able to repeat the impact of his second feature which brought Shintarô Ishihara’s cultural game-changing novel to the screen. The story is boilerplate fare about two close & competitive teenage brothers who fall hard for the same unavailable beauty. She’s 20 and married to a middle-aged absentee American. Hmm, maybe she is available. What was so startling at the time (and you can still feel the charge) was the debut of the new generation of post-WWII Japanese teens, a group largely untouched by the war. Aimless, rebellious, monied, independent & a little wild (they flaunt convention, drive thru toll gates, drink, smoke, the works), a lot like Western kids. Oddly, the original book had a strong anti-American theme, but the film ends up equating American-style teen behavior & free spirits with the good life (sun, sailing & sex), something to aspire to. Even if it all ends tragically (and frankly, the tragic ending feels a bit forced), the film is more a celebration than a condemnation. Filmed in a mere 17 days, Nakahira shows natural gifts as a stylist and gets smash iconic perfs out of his all-teen cast. (The boy’s shirts alone are worth a rental.) Watch it with REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE/55 and make yourself a double-bill.

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