Kenji Fukasaku

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If You Were Young: Rage Review


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To today's viewers, Kinji Fukasaku's 1970 feature If You Were Young: Rage might seem a little strange. What's missing is the context: Made as a kind of protest against established Japanese values of its day, the film tells the story of five young men who are lured to Tokyo to share in the bounty of that country's postwar "economic miracle" only to discover that the promised abundance is running dry. These young men can't seem to get ahead, despite their willingness to try. When one hits upon a plan - to work together to save for a dump truck and thus become independent contractors, to be their own bosses at last - life presents obstacles: jail for one, violence at the hands of the police for another, a girlfriend and subsequent children for the third. In the end, only two of the five achieve their goal, and by the time they get their truck, they've already thought up a name: Independence No. 1.

Director Fukasaku (maker of 2000's already-legendary Battle Royale) was a champion of Japan's youth, and in If You Were Young: Rage he chronicles a moment in Japan's history when being young meant being exploited by business and government alike. The hopelessness is built in. But Fukasaku, whose filmmaking method is loosely allied to the New Wave, was an energetic filmmaker too, and the exuberance of his screen technique sometimes pushes the hopelessness to the background. This energy finds its expression in jump cuts, freeze frames, cross-cutting between scenes, flash forwards and flashbacks, and any other cinematic sleight of hand available in 1970. The photography, by Takamoto Ezure, isn't active here; it's exhausting. "Rode hard and put up wet," a friend said to me as this film skidded to an end.

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