If You Were Young: Rage

"OK"

If You Were Young: Rage Review


To today's viewers, Kinji Fukasaku's 1970 feature If You Were Young: Rage might seem a little strange. What's missing is the context: Made as a kind of protest against established Japanese values of its day, the film tells the story of five young men who are lured to Tokyo to share in the bounty of that country's postwar "economic miracle" only to discover that the promised abundance is running dry. These young men can't seem to get ahead, despite their willingness to try. When one hits upon a plan - to work together to save for a dump truck and thus become independent contractors, to be their own bosses at last - life presents obstacles: jail for one, violence at the hands of the police for another, a girlfriend and subsequent children for the third. In the end, only two of the five achieve their goal, and by the time they get their truck, they've already thought up a name: Independence No. 1.

Director Fukasaku (maker of 2000's already-legendary Battle Royale) was a champion of Japan's youth, and in If You Were Young: Rage he chronicles a moment in Japan's history when being young meant being exploited by business and government alike. The hopelessness is built in. But Fukasaku, whose filmmaking method is loosely allied to the New Wave, was an energetic filmmaker too, and the exuberance of his screen technique sometimes pushes the hopelessness to the background. This energy finds its expression in jump cuts, freeze frames, cross-cutting between scenes, flash forwards and flashbacks, and any other cinematic sleight of hand available in 1970. The photography, by Takamoto Ezure, isn't active here; it's exhausting. "Rode hard and put up wet," a friend said to me as this film skidded to an end.

If You Were Young: Rage doesn't wipe out in the end because of technique alone. The front-and-center problem is that its worrying style masks a theme whose specificity confines the film to its day and age. When our boys face the necessity of breaking a strike or missing their truck payment, for instance, we understand their dilemma, but we don't understand the conditions against which the other drivers are striking. And where Fukasaku provides an explanation, as he does when showing how one of the five runs tragically afoul of the police, it reads like comic-book exposition.

In fact, everything about If You Were Young: Rage has a comic book feel to it. The film isn't unenjoyable, but it never rises above novelty. (The liner notes reveal that the film has been impossible to see, even in Japan, until it was very recently revived, and its depiction of these specific social problems may provide the explanation as to why.) If life puts the movie in your path, by all means attend. But the curious are directed to the director's companion film Blackmail Is My Life instead.

Aka Kimi ga wakamono nara.



If You Were Young: Rage

Facts and Figures

Run time: 89 mins

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Starring: as Kikuo, as Asao

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