The children of post-War Japan were a "lost generation." Having not known the suffering and hardships of their parents, and cut free from the rigid social codes that had dominated Japanese life for centuries, codes now abolished by the American occupiers, this "Sun Tribe" were an aimless, decedent bunch, lacking guidance or self-direction. Their world and their parent's world were just too different, a generation gap almost impossible to comprehend. On one side, war, desperate poverty and militarism, on the other Western freedoms, abundance and selfishness.
Nakahiran K˘'s "Crazed Fruit" ("Kurutta kajitsu") was the first film to explore these children, projecting their lifestyle and discontent onto the screen for all to see. Based on famed author (and current governor of Tokyo) Ishihara Shintaro's story, the sex, rough language and blind selfishness (the ultimate crime under the previous generation's Confusion code) was like a bomb in the minds of the viewing public. A new genre was born, and other films followed in suit, like Oshima Nagisa's "Cruel Story of Youth." These films are the parents of "Battle Royale" and "Suicide Circle," which still peer into the discontent of modern Japanese youth-culture.
Aside form its political and societal ramifications, "Crazed Fruit" is just a good film. Raw and beautiful, the actors clench the story in their fists and squeeze the juice. A nice blend of the subtlety of which Japanese film is so famous, blended with an unusual dynamism and sharpness. The music is almost all Hawaiian ukulele, and there is a large presence of English-speaking Westerners, something almost unheard of in Japanese film. Both of these lending a strange atmosphere to the Japanese setting.
The Criterion DVD is splendid, with an improved subtitle track that makes good use of the slang and colloquialisms so important to the youth dialog. Donald Richie, the Dean of Japanese film, gives an insightful commentary, as always. The booklet, with two separate essays, helps put the film into perspective in Japanese society.