Cruel Story of Youth

A budding gangster enthralls a freeloading young woman, soon taking advantage of her knack for hitch-hiking to rob middle-class, middle-aged men.


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  • ★★★★★ review by Neil Bahadur on Letterboxd

    Amazingly sophisticated - all the more impressive that it's only Oshima's second only 28!

    Enthralling, vicious, provocative and utterly thrilling until it's heartbreaking - it's hard to find tenderness within such a brutal world, but it's there. But the ending expands the film into a layer of metaphysics that heretofore is unannounced in the picture: Kiyoshi and Mako's relationship is depicted in a manner that is wholly materialist in nature, there's really no plot to speak of but the ups and downs of a relationship, with occasional contextualization by the world and its politics - this realist/modernist bent is actually rather refreshing and not only does the film not feel dated but it also stands out considerably from...most films pretty much anywhere at the time of its release in its aversion of melodrama. But the final moments are devastating: the crosscutting between Kiyoshi's beating and Mako looking back at him before her leap implies a sudden tangibility of love, true love is materialized and the final moments are wholly devastating, because of the implication on Oshima's part that such intimacy - an intimacy which moves beyond space - has no place in the world itself.

    I don't know if I agree with that but I don't have to - its a remarkable film on its own terms. Eons beyond what someone like Godard was doing at the time (Oshima actually knows his politics, lol), and the kind of film Nicholas Ray probably wished he could make.

  • ★★★½ review by Robert Beksinski on Letterboxd

    Cruel Story of Youth is another early Ôshima production but this time with more earnestness in his material. I see many labeling the film as misogynistic and writing it off but I would not agree. It is certainly very dark and disturbing in tone and content. However that does not devoid it of meaning.

    Ôshima is exploring the corruptible nature of modern youth. A generation that does the complete opposite of learning from their elder's mistakes. They tend to take it even further and rebel to the point of self destructiveness amidst sex, crime, and violence. This message is delivered skillfully through the examined and doomed relationship of our protagonists Kiyoshi and Makoto.

    The combining of these two presents a off kilter beginning. Their newly formed love interest seems anything but, being based solely on sex and dominance. But something intriguing happens midway through the film and suddenly you actually begin to believe in their relationship and to gain hope for its survival. Ôshima sets this up perfectly to manipulate the audience even further. What seemed like it was going to end on an odd optimistic note drastically turns to its darkest point of no return.

    The film is intriguing in many ways while it may not hold a lasting impact. It is expertly handled and shot especially for being so very early still in Ôshima's career. The stylistic choices however are held to a minimum with one particular scene experimenting with sound that worked well (Makoto at the right corner of screen walking down a darkly lit city street as cars whiz by but there is no noise, only deafening heels tapping along a silently droned hallway which expressed her isolation far more than any plot development could). It was a wonderful shot to a good film.

  • ★★★★ review by Joe on Letterboxd

    A rough viewing experience, make no mistake, but I love the feverish, perversely beautiful Nick Ray melodrama of it, gorgeous technicolor cinemascope wrapped around a bleak, rotten core.

  • ★★★½ review by Rembrandt Q Pumpernickel on Letterboxd

    Good Valentine's Day movie.

  • ★★★★★ review by Sam C. Mac on Letterboxd

    We have no dreams, that's why we'll never be like you.

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