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Life Is Short: Nikkatsu Studios at 100

Thursday, October 25, 2012
7:00 p.m. The Young Rebel
Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1963)

(Akutaro). The Young Rebel marked the beginning of Suzuki's collaboration with the great art director Takeo Kimura, which continued through many of his major films. Compared with a stylized film like Tokyo Drifter, a more lyrical treatment of the Suzuki nihilist is offered in this Taisho-period equivalent of Rebel Without a Cause. Dazzling filmmaking traces Togo Konno's growth from an irrepressible bad-boy whistling Carmen to an intensely romantic teenage tough. As his sexuality blossoms, Togo (Ken Yamanouchi) comes up against the absurd, protofascist disciplinary code of his peers, who have adopted the hypocrisies of the adults around them as a weapon. Still, he persists in his newfound sexual pleasure, first in a humorously staged love scene that is neither fantasy nor reality, then in an affair with the daughter of the local doctor. She introduces him to Strindberg, he introduces her to the Eternal Farewell. Doomed love is a given. Like Togo, who aspires to write trash ("literature for fools"), Suzuki himself is a Japanese movie brat; his brackish, jazz-like direction feeds melodrama with anger, humor, and genuine sadness.

• Written by Ryozo Kasahara, based on a novel by Toko Kon. Photographed by Shigeyoshi Mine. With Ken Yamanouchi, Masako Izumi, Midori Tashiro, Kuri Chiharu. (95 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 'Scope, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Nikkatsu)