If You Were Young: Rage (君が若者なら, Kinji Fukasaku, 1970)

51AM0Z0Z2cLFor 1970’s If You We’re Young: Rage (君が若者なら, Kimi ga Wakamono Nara), Fukasaku returns to his most prominent theme – disaffected youth and the lack of opportunities afforded to disadvantaged youngsters during the otherwise booming post-war era. Like the more realistic gangster epics that were to come, Fukasaku laments the generation who’ve been sold an unattainable dream – come to the city, work hard, make a decent life for yourself. Only what the young men find here is overwork, exploitation and a considerably decreased likelihood of being able to achieve all they’ve been promised.

Our story revolves around five young men who meet whilst working at a factory which later goes bust. The central pair, Kikuo and Asao have been friends since childhood. Both of their fathers were killed in mining accidents and the boys are part of the “golden egg” movement bringing in workers from the rural towns to increase prosperity in the capital. The other three are a fisherman’s son, Kiyoshi, a boxing enthusiast Ryuji and fifth wheel Ichiro. After a short spell in gaol, the guys hatch on the idea of clubbing together to buy a dumper truck and start a business of their own. However, by the time they’ve actually got the truck one of them’s in prison, one pulls out because of a shotgun marriage and the other is killed in a labour dispute. Asao and Kikuo get on with living the dream and are doing pretty well with the truck until their imprisoned friend decides to escape and ruins all of their lives in the process.

Almost proto-punk in tone, If You Were Young: Rage takes a long hard look at the put upon masses who rebuilt Japan but were left with little in return. These five guys left their small towns for the big city promised high wages, access to education and a path to a better life but largely what they found was cold rooms and overwork. There are frequent strike motions in the film as the construction and factory workers attempt to insist on better pay and conditions but are constantly defeated by the white collar bosses who can just bus in even more desperate young men who will agree to cross the picket line because they have no other choice. Our central five now have a dream and something to work towards, their truck isn’t just “a truck” – it’s a hundred trucks somewhere down the line and a symbol of the path to prosperity.

However, at the end of the film all of their dreams have been shattered. Some of this is not their fault, merely the vicissitudes of fate and changing times, some of it is down to poor choices but largely the odds were always stacked against them because the world is unfair. Kiyoshi lies all the time because he’s scared of pretty much everything, possibly because of an abusive (though perhaps not uncommon) upbringing. His selfishness and, ultimately, cowardice is about to mess things up for everyone else and there are somethings you just can’t come back from. Like many of Fukasaku’s heroes, what Asao dreams of is the friendship he found when the five guys were all together and working as a team. He wants to go back to that time of perpetual hope and friendship rather than live in this lonely prosperity.

Fukasaku veers between quirky new wave style optimism and the extreme pessimism of his general world view. The film is bright and colourful for the majority of its running time with memory and fantasy often relegated to black and white. He uses his usual freeze frames, often in times of violence, hand held cameras and dynamic framing to achieve his youthful, freewheeling atmosphere but as usual there’s a kind of desperation lurking in the background. As might be expected, the ending is all flames and ashes – youth lies ruined, dreams shattered, and the possibility of moving on seems woefully far off. Another characteristically caustic look at modern youth from Fukasaku, this more indie effort is one of his most searing and bears out his rather bleak prognosis for the future of his nation.

If You Were Young: Rage is available with English subtitles on R1 US DVD from Homevision and was previously released as part of the Fukasaku Trilogy (alongside Blackmail is My Life and Black Rose Mansion) by Tartan in the UK.



LFF 2015 Round-up

still-loveandpeace2Total films:

  1. Mountains May Depart
  2. A Guy From Fenyang
  3. My Love Don’t Cross That River
  4. Der Nachtmahr
  5. Lost in Munich
  6. Jia Zhangke & Walter Salles Screentalk
  7. Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen
  8. Salaam Bombay
  9. In the Room
  10. Assassination
  11. Beeba Boys
  12. Ghost Theater
  13. Son of Saul
  14. Invisible Boy
  15. Right Now, Wrong Then
  16. Love & Peace
  17. Black Mass
  18. A Bigger Splash
  19. Our Little Sister
  20. The Assassin
  21. Evolution
  22. Poet On a Business Trip
  23. Cemetery of Splendour
  24. The Witch
  25. The Apostate
  26. Desierto
  27. Madonna
  28. An
  29. Youth
  30. The End of the Tour
  31. A Tale of Three Cities
  32. The Boy and the Beast
  33. Office
  34. Ruined Heart
  35. Murmur of the Hearts
  36. My Golden Days
  37. Happy Hour
  38. Yakuza Apocalypse

Somehow, this list was longer than I thought it was going to be. Not sure how that happened really but I did manage to pack in all of the Asian films plus a fair few others. This year I really did feel victimised by the dreaded LFF clashes meaning I missed out on a few things I really wanted to see but nothing too major. There were only a couple of choices I regretted making, though I suppose I had to see them to find out. Nothing really grabbed me like last year’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – perhaps because I ended up seeing bigger films with more established buzz around them so I wasn’t really caught off guard in that way. Still, some fine discoveries. Now the long wait for LFF 2016 – oh, what wonders shall ye bring?

Top 5 (somewhat arbitrary):

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Mountains May Depart
  3. Murmur of the Hearts
  4. Office
  5. Our Little Sister

Sneaky review previews of stuff coming up on UK Anime Network, might put a few other things up here too: