Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Nagisa Oshima / Japan, 1968):
(Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki)

Not so much a diary as an underground almanac or a most hectic Mad magazine fold-in,"a lovely Sunday" in the end all the same. The aesthete-punk's romantic yowl ("Let's steal something!"), the twinky shoplifter (Tadanori Yokoo) and the bogus bookstore detective (Rie Yokoyama) meet-cute in brisk little send-ups of Bresson's Pickpocket, it's the summer of '68. Eros is everybody's subject—discussed by a sozzled gaggle in a mock-vérité roundtable, theorized about by a wizened analyst, acted upon by the young couple surrounded by rituals of exchange and renewal. Japan the impenetrable island is a maiden with her legs crossed, so declare Juro Kara and his Situation Players while the moon-faced store boss (Moichi Tanabe) embodies a bemused Old Order, as impassive as a Buddha figurehead. The filched clock-hands and the slashed nipple, a Godardian trend of thought? "I don't get French at all!" Nagisa Oshima at the barricades, a camera searching for a revolution or rather creating one, a mise en scène always mutating, always collapsing. (When a humid tryst triggers a Kurosawa-style downpour, he just tilts up to the roof of the lovers' cabin to reveal the crew with hose in hand.) Books talk and colors surge in this "town of mystery": After hours at the library is a dense cacophony of dueling texts (cf. Clampett's Book Revue), abrupt chromatic switches turn red (virginal blood on stained bedsheets, menstrual blood on stage snow) and blue (a woman underneath a cyan dawn sky following her violation) into new characters. Fractured Kabuki masks and Yumeji's dirty doodles, everything goes into the therapy to get youngsters to quit slinging Chuya quotes at each other and start fucking some sense into society. "What are you, a cinephile?" In times of upheaval Oshima demands nothing less than headstands from the medium, Makavejev follows suit with WR: Mysteries of the Organism. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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