Japan staggered into student upheavel in the 50's after early feelings of 40's amphetamine fuelled supremacy, hitting a post depressive collective comedown after 45. The depression was all encompassing as the real world closed in on the fake self belief of deluded Emperor worshipers. The feeling of being cheated tore the country apart between those who thought the war should have been prosecuted with more virulence and those who saw through the facade.
The film starts with students protesting against the world around them. Then it decides to take a detour into the lives of young people stretching their legs into the adult world.
A tale of living dreams instead of feeling middle age regret is the constant battle. Middle Age men preying on the beauty of the young. Those who have the wealth never feeling enough and wanting the allure of youth. Young people alienated from the world feeding on the neediness of the wealthy. It is an eternal trap, a symbiosis unravelling as a thread throughout until it finally ends.
In between we are led down the pathways of rape, abortion, beatings, prostitution, gang violence and theft. Shot in the developing worlds of Japan the scenic backdrop of a country on the move provides a sterile beauty of an industrial bleakness. It captures an essential quotient of Japan. The neon world of cell like claustrophobic bedsits exist in a counterpoint to the wide expansive industrial wastelands.
Oshima's realism disguised as cynicism portrays a reality of young people's hustle beamed back to them. No wonder the film was funded and has become a cinematic classic. It tapped into a 60's zeitgeist. It should by now, be seen as a museum piece in post 21stC capitalism. Unfortunately it still pictures a social reality beamed back to young people. The main difference? The aesthetic style was much sharper, well defined and beautiful in the 1960's.
So much for cinematic, artistic, cultural emotional progress.