Cruel Story of Youth
'Cruel' is the operative word in the title of Nagisa Oshima’s second feature – one of three he turned out in quick succession in 1960. This rapid workflow didn’t curb the quality of the finished article: a cynical tale of wayward youth presented with a suitable degree of directorial maturity.
As you’d expect with Oshima, sex, violence and the interconnectedness of the two are key themes, though their onscreen exploration thankfully stops short of the controversial excesses of many of his later works. Still, what’s there is provocative enough, charting an emotionally and physically abusive relationship between two disenfranchised students living in post-war Tokyo; an affair that begins with attempted sexual assault and deteriorates from there. It all adds up to a fairly pitiless portrait of apathy, alienation, generational discord and rife misogyny; not exactly an enjoyable watch, then, but a fascinating one both for fans of Oshima and the Japanese new wave more broadly. [Chris Buckle]