Jan 22, 2011

The Youth Killer

Kazuhiko Hasegawa has been hailed as an unsung hero of Japanese cinema since directing 2 motion pictures: The Youth Killer and The Man Who Stole the Sun. Both of these films feature the central idea of rebellion and the oft-anarchic nature of youth. The Youth Killer was introduced to me with very esteemed remarks towards the burgeoning guilt of our cocky lead, Jun. After Jun visits his parents to discuss their son's employment and relationship with free-spirit Keiko, things turn bloody twisted as Jun finds himself standing over his father's corpse, a bloody knife in his hand. Jun's father had hired an investigator to dig into Keiko's past, resulting in most of what Jun had thought to be the truth to be lies from the harlot's mouth. This "trigger" results in the slaying of his father and eventually his mother. This slow-burn effect of losing grip on sanity could have been relatively shortened. These events that I've highlighted make up the first hour of film. One hour of slipping in and out of hysteria. That's enough to drive anyone crazy, especially with the camera assigned to "realistic" tendencies. Jun and his mother switch psychosis and attempt to clean up the body, looking somber at the corpse while loudly recalling past instances. 

I had previously attempted to watch The Youth Killer quite a few months back but lost interest and opted to do something else, resulting in me forgetting the entire experience. The second time around wasn't so much the charm as it took dead set determination to finish. Starting off and succeeding in making it as far as I could remember, the pacing didn't seem to get any better. I felt sluggish and tired. This modest look at patricide and rebellion in youth can be seen as an important film due to the current state of youth in Japan. The past several decades have seen Japanese youth reach new peaks of extremity to break free of social norms. Much of the impact of The Youth Killer is fumbled onto the trail it glides on. The predetermined fate of the characters is set in stone and could bestow enormous and powerful social commentary but siphons all efforts with ludicrous scenes which only boil my dissent. One scene in particular is the passing of Jun's mother. Both Jun and the mother swap roles of grieving and headstrong. This doesn't last because soon Jun's mother begins to sense Jun's reluctance to leave the tramp, Keiko. Realizing just the gravity of the situation, she wraps a knife to her hand with a towel and begins furiously stabbing at Jun, leading to her being pinned to the ground in a sheet. She begs "Thrust it gently" and wishes for her lovely Jun to take her life. Eventually succumbing, Jun stabs his mother only to be shocked by her screams - "It hurts!". 

One scene caught my eye and forced me to finally break silence about the plight of technology. As Jun walks down the street during the opening of the film, a large delivery truck passes through a puddle, dousing Jun from head to toe. In this age of rampant technology, this seemingly innocent incident would render the victim several hundred dollars behind in debt. Think about the accessories an average puppet to the digital age carries: iPod, mobile phone, PDA, Bluetooth. Sure this is irrelevant to the film but it's this antiquity of culture that really has me scratching my chin and thinking of a better time, a time in which everything isn't run by a processor of some sort. This crime of passion soon turns Jun from a guiltless punk into a suicidal clown who waxes poetic much too often. Godiego provided the unfitting soundtrack for The Youth Killer. They're the folks responsible for the soundtrack to Hausu, whose kooky demeanor benefits from the soul jams Godiego has to offer. The Youth Killer's blatant drama does not support the cheery tunes whatsoever. While The Youth Killer is hailed as a brilliant mark in Hasegawa's tiny span as a director, I found it lame and overly sensitive to life. Watching several characters bumble around threatening and attempting to kill themselves grows tiring, the same as what one would suffer from reading poetry on Livejournal written by 13 year old angsty princesses.

The strongest portion of The Youth Killer is Keiko's revealing of Jun's father telling the truth. At first the blame is laid on Keiko as she should have never kept the secret of rape from her significant other but soon Jun slips into his shell and broods about the mistake of killing the kindest man in his life. This is touched on quite beautifully as Jun and his father sumo wrestle on the construction site of their future bar. This scene of bonding that's featured is powerfully moving. It's scenes of fatherhood like this that really make me regret not having anything in common with my own dad. The only other scene of worth is the party hallucination near the finale of the film. All the characters in the film are wining and dining, laughing and taking photographs. The iconoclast essence of Jun is teased with this daydream sequence. It's such a shame that Hasegawa had such technique in characterization but didn't pleasure us with its company. The two withstanding themes of The Youth Killer lies within Keiko's discussing how she enjoyed being raped by her mother's lover and that truth kills. These two facets saves The Youth Killer from being entirely unwatchable garbage. Even though I sat frustrated and unsatisfied by the closure, The Youth Killer is still a film I greatly respect but will never endorse.



Unknown said...

i just want to say thank you because of you guys i've discovered tons of great films

Soiled Sinema said...

Greatly appreciated, Chad.