Saturday, July 02, 2011


Koreyoshi Kurahara's The Warped Ones is one of the rare films about juvenile delinquents on the loose that retains the power to disturb. It focuses on a trio of thugs -- Akira (Tamio Kawachi), his hooker girlfriend Fumiko (Noriko Matsumoto) and Masaru(Eiji Go) -- who typically live for the moment. Akira and Fumiko, like the couple in Oshima's Cruel Story of Youth, usually work as a team; she serves as the bait to lure men and he picks their pocket. The goal in life of all three is pure sensation: sex, violence, drinking and jazz. The music sends Akira into a frenzy, his face frequently contorted in a stupefied orgasmic rictus. He has a maniacal James Cagney smile when he's thinking, and an idiotic Jerry Lewis pucker when he isn't.

What's really interesing about the film, though, is that, as I see it, this gang of miscreants aren't the warped ones of the title, or at least, not the only ones. That distinction is also shared by the young couple whom they victimize: the reporter Kashiwagi (Hiroyuki Nagato) and his fiancée, Yuki (Yuko Chishiro), an abstract painter. To retaliate against Kashiwagi for turning them in, the grou, led by Akira, beat Kashiwagi nearly to death, then kidnap his bride and rape her.

The couple can't face the shame of what happened to them, so they don't go to the cops. Kashiwagi, instead, pretends it didn't happen. Yuki, however, is so traumatized by the rape and her fiancee's denial that she seeks out her attacker. She asks him, in effect, to rape her husband-to-be, so that the two of them will both be at the same level of disgrace, and then can start all over again.

This, Kurahara seems to be suggesting, is what middle-class morality in Japan does to victims of rape. It warps them. Dealing with shame and disgrace are more important than justice, which in this case means victimizing, and destroying, yourself even further.

The film is very much a Japanese cousin to Godard's "Breathless," which was released the same year. Kurahara pits animalistic and destructive youth against castrated, soulless society, and doesn't seem particularly hopeful about the outcome, whichever way it goes.

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