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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Cruel Story of Youth aka "Seishun zankoku monogatari" aka "Naked Youth" [Blu-ray]

 

(Nagisa ‘shima, 1960)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Shochiku Ofuna

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #118

 

Disc:

Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:36:46.592

Disc Size: 35,623,751,804 bytes

Feature Size: 28,352,492,928 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.98 Mbps

Chapters: 10

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: August 17th, 2015

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio Japanese 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• New video interview with film critic Tony Rayns (55:07)
Original theatrical trailer (1:44)
36-page booklet containing an essay, interview material, and rare archival imagery

DVD included

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: This second feature by the Japanese cinema-insurgent Nagisa ‘shima (In the Realm of the Senses, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence) galvanised its home-turf with its topsy-turvy directorial dexterity and stinging castigation of an indolent, self-indulgent youth culture reposing on the eve of the turbulent 1960s.

When high-schooler Makoto is saved from the advances of a lecherous middle-aged man by uni student Kiyoshi, the pair embark on a fits-and-starts affair that finally settles into a sexually extortionary, mutually exploitative dependency that promises to spell their relationship’s doom.

‘shima’s breakthrough portrait of alienated youth comes courtesy of the 2014 Shochiku 4K scan that resurrected the film’s glorious color palette, recently described by critic and programmer James Quandt as “running riot with retro: pusing neon, turquoise telephones, hair teased into shellacked grandeur.” The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Cruel Story of Youth in a Dual Format edition, for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK.

 

 

The Film:

Nagisa Oshima's groundbreaking film opens with young, attractive Mako and her friend hitching a ride from an old man. After her friend leaves, the man tries to rape her, and she is saved only by the handsome Kiyoshi. Later, against the background of the tumultuous 1960 U.S./Japan Security Treaty demonstrations, Kiyoshi and Mako walk along a grungy seaside lumberyard while talking about sex. He attempts to kiss her, she slaps him, and he throws her in the water. She cries out that she can't swim. When she continues to refuse his advances, he steps on her fingers as she clings to a log. Kiyoshi then saves Mako from a trio of seedy pimps looking to impress her into working for them, but after rescuing her, he forces himself on her again. With this unlikely beginning, Kiyoshi and Mako form a passionate though doomed romance. Soon she stops going to school and moves into his flea-ridden dive of an apartment. Utterly disillusioned with all trappings of societal convention, the two get cash by blackmailing businessmen and by shaking down Kiyoshi's middle-aged sugarmama. Tension with this Bonnie and Clyde duo builds after Mako has an abortion in a run down clinic, performed by an alcoholic doctor.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Oshima's second feature offers a potent statement of moral and political disillusionment wrapped up within a familiar 'youth gone wild' shocker. Virtually ignoring the student protests over the signing of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the teenage lives here revolve around the twin poles of sex and money, as a naive middle-class girl falls for a dubious boyfriend content to use her as bait in extorting cash from middle-aged lechers. The couple's youthful lack of scruples is set against the failure of their older siblings' generation to bring meaningful change to the defeated nation, with Oshima's decentred compositions and edgy location work underlining the sense of a society adrift. Unsympathetic characters render the central narrative somewhat academic, but this is still a significant moment in the take-up of European cinema's New Wave freedoms in Japan.

Excerpt fromTimeOut located HERE

 

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Cruel Story of Youth is pretty sweet looking on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema group in the UK. The image quality balances nicely between bright, refreshing primary colors and the usual greenish overhang we have seen on countless older Japanese film. It is advertised as being taken from the '2014 4K Shochiku restoration'. Like many films from that country the visuals are very thick and heavy. This looks superb in-motion. The transfer is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. It has no gloss nor is it pristinely sharp but shows some occasional depth, not a hint of noise, and black levels are deep. I would guess the 2.39:1 aspect ratio is an impressive 1080P presentation looking better than I imagined. This is very pleasing.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM 1.0 channel track at 1152 kbps in the original Japanese. The film's music, by RiichirŰ Manabe, works very well with the pace, advancing moods, tension, conflicts and romance. Dialogue is clean and even. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

 

Extras :

Masters of Cinema provide and, almost hour-long, video interview with film critic Tony Rayns discussing just about everything from the film's history, director, performers etc. He is at his usual educational level and a very worthy addition. There is also a weak-ish original theatrical trailer and the dual-format package contains a second disc DVD of the feature and MoC's usual, valuable, 36-page booklet containing an essay, interview material, and rare archival imagery.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Cruel Story of Youth is a very good film - and perhaps less-eclectic than some may expect from ‘shima. There are many social and political themes surrounding post-war Japan and from that standpoint alone it is fascinating. The director knows how to set pace and uses the frame well. There are hints of rebellious youth and sexual incongruity that are also found in the director's later work. What a fabulous choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. I had never seen it before (although it played at TIFF in 2014) - and it looks stellar in the 1080P presentation. Another gorgeous package that we can very strongly recommend! 

Gary Tooze

August 13th, 2015

 


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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