A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Crazed Fruit (Ko Nakahira, 1956)

Yujiro Ishihara, Mie Kitahara, and Masahiko Tsugawa in Crazed Fruit 
Natsuhisa: Yujiro Ishihara
Haruji: Masahiko Tsugawa
Eri: Mie Kitahara
Frank: Masumi Okada
Eri's Husband: Harold Conway

Director: Ko Nakahira
Screenplay: Shintaro Ishihara
Based on a novel by Shintaro Ishihara
Cinematography: Shigeyoshi Mine
Art direction: Takashi Matsuyama
Film editing: Masanori Tsuji
Music: Masaru Sato, Toru Takemitsu

The eternal triangle, this time involving two brothers, Natsuhisa and Haruji, and a young woman, Eri. Crazed Fruit is somewhat of a landmark movie in Japanese film history, part of a genre known as taiyozoku or "Sun Tribe" movies, featuring the idle, affluent postwar Japanese youth. Every culture had its rebels without a cause in the 1950s, and the Japanese older generation was as scandalized (and titillated) by them as the rest. Crazed Fruit was singled out as more scandalous than most, partly because it seems to relish the erotic energy of the young without condemning it. The focal point of the film is the younger brother, Haruji, who becomes infatuated with a pretty young woman he sees in a train station, and becomes involved with her after he meets her again while out in a motorboat -- she has swum much farther out from shore than is usual, and he gives her a ride back. Her name is Eri, and she mysteriously keeps him away from the place she lives, agreeing to meet him elsewhere. She is taken with Haruji's innocence and shyness -- for a long time they stop short of having sex -- in part because he reminds her of her own lost innocence. She is married to a wealthy middle-aged American businessman, a fact she keeps from him, but which the older brother, Natsuhisa, learns and uses to blackmail her into having an affair with him. Haruji's learning the truth leads to a cataclysmic ending, of course. The material is handled with a good deal of sophistication that somewhat mitigates its exploitative qualities. The film made its young leads into big stars: After outgrowing his rebellious youth persona, Masahiko Tsugawa became a leading man and then a familiar character actor, while Yujiro Ishihara (the screenwriter's young brother) and Mie Kitahara married and became frequent costars -- the TCM commentary on the film calls them "the Bogart and Bacall of Japan."

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