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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NIHON SHUNKA-KO / SING A SONG OF SEX (1967)

Best known for the sensationalist aspects of IN THE REALMS OF THE SENSES/’76 and MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE/’83 (not so much for the films themselves), this earlier work from Japanese writer/director Nagisa Ôshima finds his compositional skills far outpacing story, characterization & philosophy. The film tags along as four aimless high school grads wonder about test scores & their future, ogle co-eds and interrupt anti-Vietnam sing-alongs (of The Weavers Greatest Hits!) with a raunchy ditty their Prof taught them during a booze-fueled meal. As night turns to day, the disaffected youths are revealed as both amoral & apolitical, with a passive approach to life that brings fatal consequences. The smell of the ‘68 student riots is already in the air (along with Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE/’71), but the issues, as presented, feel forced, reprehensible actions as tricked-up as in some Neil LeBute ‘problem’ play. The real puzzle is why no one says ‘No’ to these neatly dressed punks. Just another mystery of Japanese culture that doesn’t translate or travel*, though it does leave you with an appetite for more Oshima.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Stateside viewers will spot the usual Western product advertisements in the backgrounds, including a great Coca-Cola logo. But look fast to catch Julie Andrews & Paul Newman on a TORN CURTAIN poster. How did that one ‘translate & travel?’

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