Crazed Fruit

"Very Good"

Crazed Fruit Review


The accepted stereotype is that the Japanese are an orderly people who wait for the light to change before crossing intersections on foot and who can be trusted to purchase their train tickets on the honor system. Although it's largely forgotten now, a single film released in Japan in 1956 did more than anything up to that time to refute this stereotype; it presented, for mass consumption and arguably for the first time in Japan, a portrait of an idle class of post-war youth who didn't much respect their elders, questioned traditional values, and dumped convention in favor of such youthful pursuits as gambling, lying around by the sea, and diligently pursuing the opposite sex. The film is Ko Nakahira's Crazed Fruit, and the good people at the Criterion Collection have polished it up for DVD; here's hoping that this influential and worthwhile film doesn't get forgotten again.

How influential was it? If you charted Crazed Fruit's influence alongside its shock value you'd probably find a pretty strong correlation. And in 1956 it was an eyeful indeed. The film opens on two teenaged brothers, Haruji (Masahiko Tsugawa) and Natsuhisa (Yujiro Ishihara), as they create an ungentlemanly disturbance while racing to catch a train. (They do not buy tickets.) Once aboard, they sling their belongings onto an overhead rack and proceed to talk loudly about their eagerness to water ski (the younger Haruji) and meet girls (Natsuhisa). Haruji even strips off his shirt to rebut the claim that he's scrawny. Already it's impolite, but before long Haruji has taken up with an older girl (Eri, played by Mie Kitahara) who, unbeknownst to him, is married to a much older American. When Natsuhisa learns Eri's secret he blackmails her into sleeping with him behind the smitten Haruji's back. As this central conflict plays out, director Nakahira fills screen time with the adventures of the boys' similarly aimless friends as they go about living their sunstruck, unsupervised lives. During one evening, in the course of which a plan is hatched to play poker with girls instead of cards to see who can get the best hand, the teens pause from their drinking and gambling to talk through their beliefs: "Look what the older generation tried to sell us," they complain. "Do you find anything exciting in that? We live in boring times so we make boredom our credo." But young Haruji, at first, isn't having any of that. "You guys have no idea what you want to do," he says. "They call people like you the Sun Tribe. I'm not going to live like that."

This schematic will of course sound familiar to American ears, and in fact our very own Crazed Fruit, here titled Rebel without a Cause, had come out just one year before. As Haruji notes, the rebellion that Crazed Fruit both documented and contributed to was dubbed the Sun Tribe by the press, parents, and other concerned parties; the name reflecting the tendency of these rebels to spend their time in close proximity to the sea. (The phrase soon denoted a sub-genre of Japanese film as well, Kon Ichikawa's Punishment Room being the other noteworthy title in that particular canon.) Save for the marine locale, the delinquency on view in Crazed Fruit tightly parallels its American counterpart, down to and including the tragic consequences that idleness and indifference bring about. It's intended as a lesson when young Haruji, learning at last that he's been deceived by both his brother and his best girl, makes a catastrophic decision at the conclusion of Crazed Fruit, changing forever the lives of all involved. But, like Rebel, the appended message does little to nullify the seductiveness of what's come before. Yes, the film says, this life leads to heartbreak and despair. But you know that its young audience is thinking that it looks like a lot of fun just the same.

It's not just the absence of parents and (historically factitious) surplus of cash that seduces. When Crazed Fruit was made, there was a cinematic and cultural revolution called the French New Wave raging elsewhere, and director Nakahira clearly saw that that movement's off-the-cuff, invigorated style fit his material hand in glove. A contemporary audience could never apprehend the newness Crazed Fruit conveyed in its day: the way its shot/reverse shot sequences defied traditional Japanese composition, the dizziness of its continuity, Nakahira's jarring use of close-ups and steamy American jazz. Was Nakahira a great director? Probably not; you're aware, during Crazed Fruit, that what you're seeing is sometimes the result of skill and sometimes luck. But the film captured a mood convincingly - and, in cinematic terms, appropriately - and it plugged into a cultural zeitgeist that bore it up and away. In the film's opening scenes aboard the sweltering train one brother remarks to the other that the wind is picking up, and the comment feels right; you sense that there's not just a film, but a big, irrevocable change getting underway.

Criterion's edition of Crazed Fruit includes a fascinating commentary by film scholar Donald Richie that sheds a lot of light on both the movie at hand and the often mysterious world of Japanese film in general, as well as a pair of useful essays and a lovely transfer of the film. Thanks are due them for making this key Japanese film available again.

Aka Kurutta kajitsu, Juvenile Jungle.



Crazed Fruit

Facts and Figures

Run time: 86 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 12th July 1956

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 6

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ko Nakahira

Producer:

Starring: as Takishima Haruji, as Takishima Natsuhisa, as Eri, Harold Conway as Eri's husband

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.