“Turn me back into who I was before. My old self.”
Akira and Fumiko are caught pickpocketing American tourists in a jazz club by a journalist named Kashiwagi. He alerts the police to their crime and they are imprisoned. Akira befriends a man named Masaru while inside. When they are released, Akira reunites with Fumiko, steals a car, and cruises the beach. Akira spies Kashiwagi out with his fiancé, Yuki, and strikes him with the driver’s side door, abducting Yuki. They all stop after a while: Fumiko and Masaru rush off to swim and have sex, Akira meanwhile, rapes Yuki. Such is the life of juvenile misfits in Kurahara’s 1960 film, shot in a way that is both influenced by Nicolas Ray and prophetic of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Akira soon fences the car to an automotive chop shop (run by children apparently) and, with the money, rents a flat. Masaru soon joins a yakuza mob while Akira is confronted by Yuki. She is pregnant but more concerned about Kashiwagi who has become a temperamentally detached man of late. Akira has a plan but it is one closely related to his inner nihilism. There are memorable scenes here; stark and realistic structurally but performed with such psychosis that it operates outside of reality. It is ultimately tragic but doesn’t wallow in it. Instead, perhaps less desirably, tragedy is an expectant cloud fit to release upon all involved inescapably.
Prominent in the film is the jazz score: omnipresent, ever in the mind of the criminal, Akira – a drug of the ears enrapturing all those who dare listen. There is even a scene at a jazz club where Yuki stops a playing jazz record and Akira attempts to stab her with a broken beer bottle. Jazz, in the film, is depicted as an irresistible plague so fulfilling in every way that only violence can result; an implosion of emotion caught within the clutches of every third and fifth. This is complemented by (or rather, complements) the energetic cinematography and schizophrenic characters – all directed by the confidant Kurahara as he depicts animalistic man in the throes of youth.
Often compared to Godard’s Breathless, Kurahara’s take on the “misguided youth” theme occurred at a time when the youth subculture genre was a relatively new angle in film. Kurahara, who will continue to celebrate a career full of box office successes, is just as at home here with guerilla tactics, frenzied editing, and erratic camerawork. Indeed, two other films of note, directed by Kurahara and similar in approach and sensibility, would be his follow-up, Black Sun, and his debut, I am Waiting. A frantic film, Kyonetsu no Kisetsu, radical only through association with the protagonist, is an unforgiving hyper-realistic nightmare fraught with the incomparable joys of jazz.