Sunday, April 19, 2015

Just a Boy

Boy (1969) - Oshima
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A strong condemnation of Japanese war generation and their impact on post-war Japan. A swindler family - an invalid war vet father, much younger step mother who was a cabaret dancer, a 3 year old baby and boy, our unnamed protagonist, ekes out a living faking hit & run on unwitting drivers. Their 'work' takes them up and down the Japan's coastline. Their job is sometimes successful but always dangerous. It's usually mother who throws herself - albeit skillfully, into incoming cars (driven by rich and preferably women drivers), but boy slowly masters the craft with a little bit of bruising here and there.

Oshima makes it clear that it's belligerent father who robs the childhood out of boy. After all, he is just a 10 year old boy who imagines he is an alien from Andromeda. But this being Oshima film, he is observed with no sentimentality. He doesn't do anything adorable or mean or something meaningful. He just observes and reacts like any 10 year old boy would. He isn't naive or wise. He is just a boy. It's mother, even though she's not his real mother, is still full of sentimentality and melancholy in that motherly way.

It's no 400 Blows for sure. Oshima's penchant for playing with the medium is minimized here also. Some abrupt monochrome sequences pop up and great use of widescreen to accentuate boy's isolation but that's about it. It's the most straight forward film in this Japanese New Wave period by Oshima.

Boy tries to run away in many occasions but always comes back, yearning for that 'normal family life'. The most poignant scenes in the film are boy running away and sleeping on the rocks near the ocean, singing quietly himself to sleep and him destroying the snowman made of the red boot of a dead girl and a wrist watch his stepmother bought him.

You can see the lineage of Japan's often emasculated, souless baby boomers in countless contemporary Japanese films in Boy as we read the future of what's to come in boy's face.

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