Finally, one of Japan’s most controversial films of the 1950s makes its way to DVD. “Crazed Fruit” follows around two rich and privileged brothers (one couldn’t be more different from the other) and their friends during a summer holiday at a beach town.
The older brother of the two, Natsuhisa (Ishihara), is loud, obnoxious and womanizing. The younger one, Haruji is shy and polite. Basically, he is the complete opposite. Haruji, unlike his brother, wants a little more than sex when it comes to relationships. When he finally meets a local girl that attracts him both physically and mentally, they begin a typical summer relationship. The psychological turmoil commences, however, when he falls in love with her and his brother’s jealousy kicks in. Natsuhisa begins a sexual relationship with the girl, Eri, behind Haruji’s back. If any kind of comparison to modern day storytelling is necessary, think of Neil Labute’s style of writing: just when you think things are going good for the protagonist, something wicked this way comes.
The carefree way that teenagers live their lives caused quite a few eyebrows to rise upon its release. It was so divisive for post-war Japan for the simple fact that it illustrated the youth as being too unconcerned with old style traditions by showing a lack of respect for authority. Being monogamous also wasn’t a big deal to these teens either. Simply put, this film was put out in the midst of normal youthful revolution, when customary traditions were being broken. Today it’s probably really rare to find kids that don’t live this way. In the 1950s though, this kind of lackadaisical living just wasn’t something adults wanted so calmly exposed.
As for the DVD, Criterion once again did a stunning job with the transfer. Shigeyoshi Mine’s (also the cinematographer of “Tokyo Drifter”) beautiful black and white photography perfectly contrasts the visuals of the pure and bright beach scene with the chaos of the youthful sexual mayhem.
The DVD is bare of extras but the film and the cheap price of the disc more than pick up the slack. The extras include an essay by film scholar Michael Raines, and a commentary by Japanese cinema master Donald Richie. Like all of his commentaries, it’s packed full on interesting facts and comparisons to other works. If you ever looking to further your knowledge of classic Japanese film, do yourself a favor and head to your local bookstore and look him up.
It’s a shame that this type of story is all too common these days because these unique classics just vanish amongst them. “Crazed Fruit” marks the debut (and a strong debut at that) of director Ko Nakahira. Comparing this film to something more modern, think again of LaBute (“The Shape of Things” and “In the Company of Men”); if he was alive and directing film in the 1950s, “Fruit” would probably be the type of film launched from his cannon.