Post-War Japan was very turbulent in many ways. The Rising Sun has always been a very conservative and conformist country throughout modern history. The only time the consensus has been rattled was in this period from 1950 until the late ’60s. A youthful population were growing up in a society still struggling with the humiliation and economic depression which followed the cessation of hostilities. They rebelled in their own way, challenging the status quo, authority and the taboos in Japanese society. New Wave filmaker Nagisa Oshima ‘s Cruel Story of Youth came out in 1960 and addresses youthful rebellion through the outlets of sex and crime.
Mako (Miyuki Kuwano) and her friend hitch a ride home with an older man. After her friend leaves, he tries to rape Mako, only to be saved by Kiyoshi (Yasuke Kawazu). The pair embark on a relationship, driven by his whims, which she happily goes along with. Her sister, Yuki (Yoshiko Kuga), is not impressed as Mako places their relationship ahead of going to school. Instead, the couple re-enact their first encounter as a way to extort money. As the relationship progresses, Kiyoshi finds it hard to break away from an older woman whilst Mako is attracted to an older man who provides the kindness and tenderness which is lacking in their relationship.
Oshima contrasts the disillusionment and apathy of the young couple against the idealism of Yuki and her ex-lover. A generation of youthful social consciousness and ideological struggle replaced ten years later by a feeling of hopelessness and fatalism. He’s non-judgemental about the actions of his main characters; their merely adapting to their situations. Cruel Story of Youth is a beautifully shot film by one of the most influential directors from the Japanese New Wave of cinema. Its moral ambiguity stands it in good stead. As does its willingness to face-up to controversy.
- 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray from the 2014 4K Shochiku restoration
- Optional English subtitles
- New video interview with film critic Tony Rayns
- Original theatrical trailer
- 36-page booklet containing an essay, interview material, and rare archival imagery
Cruel Story of Youth is released by Eureka as part of their Masters of Cinema collection on Monday.