Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stolen Cars and Dizzy Madness

To a young person, morality can seem so crystal clear that quick, extreme actions seem perfectly reasonable for any transgression. So in 1960's Everything Goes Wrong (すべてが狂ってる, "everything is crazy"), also known as The Madness of Youth, a teenage boy feels bitter disgust when his mother starts sleeping with a man who designed a tank responsible for accidentally killing the boy's father during World War II. And that's just one of the things going wrong in this film. It's a film that might have been a ridiculous melodrama but works out to be a really effective portrait of troubled teenagers in Japan at the end of the 50s. Seijin Suzuki's bold stylistic choices and frenetic editing make the improbable string of events seem like dream logic, the film like a nightmare.

The boy is Jiro (Tamio Kawaji) who tells himself he's not so old fashioned that it bothers him his mother is sleeping with a married man--though he calls his mother a whore for taking money from the man. He claims to be bothered by the man's line of work. Like many Japanese films of the 50s and 60s, this one is trying to find its own way of digesting the war and the increasing influence of American culture.

Jiro, like Travis Bickle, is comfortable with a personal philosophy of zero tolerance even as he's a mess of contradictions himself. He rebels by joining a gang of car thieves. After successfully stealing his first car, he finds out the gang's initiation ritual is for the new thief to sleep with one of the girls in the gang. The movie spends a lot of time focusing on how consensual this is--we see one girl going home crying while three boys brag about gang banging her. Toshimi (Yoshiko Nezu), the girl we get to know best in the film, talks about how she wasn't sure if sometimes she really wanted to sleep with a boy or if she was just telling herself she did. As she got more accustomed to the gang life, though, she soon wasn't hesitating from helping to force new girls.

A shy girl hops onto the bar with Jiro--she seems to be his willing "prize" but the worldlier Toshimi pushes the girl aside and takes the reluctant Jiro to a love motel.

It turns out Jiro's not so progressive about sex as he thinks he is and he tries to insult Toshimi by giving her money. She's genuinely into him, though, heaven knows why, and she refuses the money despite the fact that she needs it for her friend Etsuko (Shinako Nakagawa) who needs it for an abortion.

Things start to get improbable when Etsuko tries to shake down Nanbara (Shinsuke Ashida)--the same man who's sleeping with Jiro's mother. After this the movie has car chases, murder, and sex, all presented a little too weirdly to be merely sensational. With feverish closeups and quick but evocative cuts, Suzuki's cinematic language turn this into a fascinating, dreamlike hell.

No comments:

Post a Comment