Nagisa Oshima’s second feature film is a prime example of the Japanese New Wave that emerged in the late fifties in Japan, whose chief characteristic was the exploration of themes that were untouched, up to that point. In this particular movie, Oshima focuses on adolescent delinquency, the sexual revolution, and the failures of the post-war generation. Furthermore, it was his first commercial success and the one that introduced him to the rest of the world.
Makoto, a high school student has the habit, along with her friends, to ask for car rides from middle-aged men. During one of those, a lecherous individual tries to rape her; however, a university student, Kiyoshi saves her by beating the assaulter and the two of them initiate, shortly after, a romantic relationship.
Nevertheless, the affair is onerous from beginning, chiefly due to Kiyoshi’s cruelty, that results in torturing her and practices that today would be easily characterized as date rape. However, the girl eventually succumbs to him and the two fall in love. Moreover, they decide to leave together in a shack, despite the strong objections by her siblings, chiefly her sister, who had a similar affair when she was young that ended abruptly, and believes that the same will happen with Makoto.
Still, nothing seems to keep the couple away from each other, not even the lack of money that they proceed on solving by repeating the events of the night they met, blackmailing and robbing middle aged men, who Makoto seduces.
The 28-year-old at the time Oshima, directs a movie that generated controversy at the time, due to the depiction of adolescent criminals, the exploitation themes and the many sex scenes, although the latter are not graphically depicted.
The movie’s social background initiates by depicting an age of innocence, when girls could hitchhike without being afraid. However, he quickly proves that the sense of security is an illusion and that the world is a cruel, inhabited by individuals who rarely are kindhearted and compassionate. On the contrary, his main characters are all ready to take advantage of the people around them, thus transforming constantly from victims to culprits and vice versa. Evidently, innocence is long lost in after war Japan.
Additionally, he presents the previous generation as bitter and disappointed, chiefly because they had the chance, after the war, to change the world, but failed. Their failure, according to Oshima, resulted in the state of the youths at the time that had little morals and reservations and no sense of purpose, whatsoever.
Technically, Oshima extensively used hand-held cameras and location shooting, a technique similar to the one implemented by French, nouvelle-vague filmmakers, who were surfacing at the same time.
Both Yusuke Kawazu as Kiyoshi and Miyuki Kawano as Makoto give accomplished performances, with their chemistry as perpetrator and victim being one of the movies greatest asset.
Cruel story of youth netted Oshima a Best New Director Award from Blue Ribbon; however, in Great Britain the film was initially rejected for a cinema certificate, due to its adult subject matter, a decision that held until 2008 when it finally passed with a 15 certificate.
In August, Eureka Entertainment released the movie for the first time in UK, in a Dual Format edition with gorgeous 1080p presentation, from the 2014 4K Shochiku restoration, also including a new video interview with film critic Tony Rayns and a 36-page booklet containing an essay, interview material, and rare archival imagery.