Kurutta kajitsu (1956)


(director: Ko Nakahira; screenwriter: based on the novel by Shintaro Ishihara/Shintaro Ishihara; cinematographer: Shigeyoshi Mine; editor: Masanori Tsujii; music: Masaru Sato/Toru Takemitsu; cast: Ayuko Fujishiro (Mother), Taizo Fukami (Father), Mie Kitahara (Eri), Harold Conway (Eri’s husband), Masumi Okada (Hirosawa Frank), Youko Benisawa (Kamakura Housekeeper), Eiko Higashitani (Michiko), Masahiko Tsugawa (Takishima Haruji), Yujiro Ishihara (Takishima Natsuhisa), Noriko Watari (Eri’s Friend); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Takiko Mizunoe; The Criterion Collection; 1956-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

“A delicious treat.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This juicy unsentimental drama was the auspicious debut film for celebrated Japanese filmmaker Ko Nakahira (“The Hunter’s Diary”/”Only on Mondays“/”A Soul to Devils“). It was made by unknowns and completed in seventeen days on a low-budget. The word taiyozoku (Sun Tribe) referred to a postwar generation that shifted from traditional to modern, and was later a term also used by the cinema. It was coined to describe the rich, bored, and mean-spirited characters populating writer Shintaro Ishihara’s novel Seasons of the Sun and his other books. This is the film that heralded in that new age of a sexier Japanese cinema, that offered teen films that were similar to the racier teen generation gap rebel ones in vogue in America but nevertheless it remained distinctly Japanese. Because of the film’s popularity in Japan, Shintaro Ishihara soon became a right-wing politician and was elected mayor of Tokyo.

Privileged bourgeois teenage brothers, the younger virgin Haruji (Masahiko Tsugawa) and the older hedonistic brother Natsuhisa (Yujiro Ishihara, the author’s younger brother and Japan’s answer to James Dean), take advantage of their absentee parents providing no guidance and leisurely spend their summer holiday along the Zushi coast, just outside of Tokyo, where their parents reside. They ride their motor boat, water ski and hang out with Natsuhisa’s dissolute, narcissistic, bored and disillusioned teen friends and their arrogant rich boy Eurasian leader Frank (Masumi Okada). They chase girls, ride in their sports cars, act rude in public, go clubbing, drink and gamble. Natsuhisa proudly states that “Boredom is our credo.”

One look while at the railroad station at a dream girl passenger, is all it takes for the intense Haruji to become smitten with the attractive mystery girl Eri (Mie Kitahara). It never dawns on him that she’s older and experienced, as they go out on a number of innocent dates and both fall in love. But the older brother senses Eri’s not a virgin and snooping around discovers she’s twenty and married to a middle-aged American businessman (Harold Conway). Natsuhisa becomes jealous and betrays little brother, and forces himself on Eri and blackmails her into putting out for him so he won’t rat her out to his brother. But Eri has a thing for Haruji that seems real and craves his innocence, feeling she’s always gone out with the aggressive Natsuhisa types and watched her youth pass by leaving her jaded. It all leads to a day of reckoning when Eri is left no choice but to choose between the boy who blindly loves her, the boy who lusts after her and won’t take no for an answer, and her clueless American businessman husband.

Crazed Fruit is a delicious treat, as a jewel of a time capsule film that captures a lost era but fails to shock now–it seems more like a cautionary morality play. Nevertheless it’s a trailblazing work in the Japanese Sun Tribe (the troubled kids bathe in the sun) subgenre, and an essential, but now forgotten, film for understanding modern postwar Japan and how it was changing from its traditional roots so rapidly it alarmed many in the public. It’s also better filmed, better musically scored with a snazzy combo of jazz, rock and Hawaiian riffs by Masaru Sato and Toru Takemitsu, and is more perceptive than most European and American youth films about relationships.