I can't believe that I forgot to write about finally seeing my homeboy Donald Richie! He is the be all and end all authority on Japanese cinema among many other cultural aspects of J-land and I got the chance to hear him speak earlier this month. Every couple of months or so Temple University puts on a "Japanese Cinema Eclectics" night at Superdeluxe in Roppongi, where a Japanese film is shown after a short introduction by Mr. Richie.
The film shown was Crazed Fruit (1965), which is based on a novel by everyone's favourite governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara. But don't worry, I suspect he used to be quite cool back in the day and this movie would never bespeak the politician he has become today. The story follows a group of young boys about town, as they spend their summer in a beach resort outside of Tokyo, drinking and chasing girls. Despite being made in the fifties, the cinematography was interesting and the story still fresh to an audience today. As with all movies from that time, what used to be shocking is no longer shocking today, but the subtle scenes that create a sexual tension in the movie are still fairly palpable and relatable even today. In one scene all we see is two pairs of legs, inching towards each other but not quite making it. Richie asked the audience, is this not sexy? It is damn sexy Mr. Richie.
Ishihara's younger brother Yujiro is in the film, and he was THE heartthrob in those days, comparable to James Dean. There is also a biracial actor in the film, who plays Frank, the swankiest of the group and with an American parent. The fact that there was this foreign element in the film, and that Frank's character was looked up to by all the other boys, was very interesting and surprising to me. The movie isn't fluff though, and takes quite a dark turn towards the end, reminding us that it is afterall, a Japanese film.
If you're in Tokyo I would definitely check one of these nights out. The chance to hear Richie speak and the music lounge session after the screening is an evening well spent.