Saturday, April 28, 2018

Stories of Bastards: Even Under a Bad Star

More Bastards: An Afterschool Story

(All images are iPhone photos taken of frames of the film playing off the Arrow Blu-ray of the film.)


Stories of Bastards [or Stories of Badboys]: Even Under a Bad Star [Akutarō-den: Warui hoshi no shita demo, 1965] is a redux of Suzuki's earlier The Bastard / The Badboy [Akutarō, 1963], set here in the Shōwa period. The Stories of Bastards title plays with the notion that this is another entry in an imaginary series devised by Suzuki; time in secondary schools is static as ever. Ken Yamauchi reincarnates as the character of Jūkichi, coming up once more against an organized disciplinary troupe made up of the upperclassmen of the school itself, who are bent on breaking the individuality of Jūkichi and all: as in the previous film he'll break them first, and more fiercely. The film opens with the enactment of a fascist recital gathered round a bonfire: the national conflagration that is yet to ignite. Suzuki chooses to provide a level of definition to the story with the Japanese low-comedy form of dunce-men by turns hollering, screaming, or flailing; and with teen boys in black school uniforms getting aroused by anatomy textbook images while clustered in their homosocial clique at a friend's house with no locked doors. The book of reference in The Bastard was Strindberg's The Red Room; here it's Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Everyone's unwitting.

Stories of Bastards has memorable scenes arranged like the blockchain. It's free-form, but somehow constricted... A typical Suzuki film, but somehow an oddity... Irritating but not fatally so, a mixture of high contrast and low. A mishmash of family, its surrogates, and lovers tossed together by proximity. Its episodes like spikes on an uni, unified with the central body bisected, as though to split the difference for the non-connoisseurs — in any case, something way stranger than compromised repast.


More writing at Cinemasparagus on the films of Seijun Suzuki:

Ankokugai no bijo [Underworld Beauty, 1958]

Fumi hazushita hara [Trampled Springtime, 1958]

Kage naki koe [Voice Without a Shadow, 1958]

"Jûsan-gô taihisen," yori: Sono gosôsha (w)o nerae ["Sidetrack No. Thirteen," or: Take Aim at That Police Van, 1960]

Kemono no nemuri [The Sleep of the Beast, 1960]

Subete ga kurutteru [Everything Goes Wrong, 1960]

Tōge (w)o wataru wakai kaze [Youthful Wind Crossing the Mountain Pass, 1961]

High-teen yakuza [Late-Teen Yakuza, 1962]

Yajû no seishun [Youth of the Beast, 1963]

Akutarō [The Bastard / The Badboy, 1963]

Akutarō-den: Warui hoshi no shita demo [Stories of Bastards: Even Under a Bad Star / Stories of Badboys: Even Under a Bad Star, 1965]


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