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An overlooked classic,
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This review is from: Naked Youth  [DVD] (DVD)
This was Nagisa Oshima's second film. He is more known for Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence [DVD]  and the notorious but outstandingThe Realm Of The Senses [DVD] .
Naked Youth takes the boy from the wrong side of the tracks meets girl from good loving background and places it firmly in the new emerging Japan of the 1950s. The Second World War saw social norm in all nations overturned in the aftermath. In the US it is probably Rebel Without A Cause that was the most serious film to approach the subject.
Oshima certainly portrays a narcissistic view of the central couple that seems to both confront and conform to the Japan of the time. There is very little in the way of hope but one great moment of redemption comes when the street-punk Kiyoshi goes to see Makoto in the surgery after she has had an abortion. He brings with him two apples. He eats the green one and leaves the rosy red one for her. The viewer is taken back to a quick shot of the crucifixion on a stained glass window at Makoto's school. The apples seem to represent those from the Adam and Eve story. But also the green suggests that although Kiyoshi may be street wise he is less ripe (mature) than Makoto who has led a sheltered life up until their meeting.
For me this is the genius of Oshima and it is what makes him the greatest of Japanese film makers and one of the greatest of all time anywhere. He sometimes reminds me of Goddard (though Goddard never quite pushed social mores to the limits, even with Ave Maria) but whereas Goddard challenged through a mechanical manner, with new technical approaches, Oshima confronts the viewer head on.
There seems to be many influences in this film, mainly from the USA but at the end of the day the viewer will be of the original voice of the cinematic master.