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Boy (1969)


kingrat
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Thanks to TCM for showing this film. I?d always wanted to see *Boy* (Nagisa Oshima, 1969) for a personal reason: an acquaintance with an attraction to lowlifes had a boyfriend whose family earned a living by staging slip-and-falls in grocery stores. In *Boy* the 10-year-old hero and his stepmother pretend to be hit by automobiles, then the father shakes down the drivers, who pay off to avoid being charged by the police. The family goes from city to city so that they won?t be recognized and caught.

 

Oshima tends to film scenes in long shots, which distances us from the characters. This does have the advantage of not sentimentalizing or overdramatizing the story. *Boy* has a fair amount of New Wave-ish stuff, like scenes shot with various filters or in black and white, for little reason that I can tell. If this is supposed to tell us more about the emotions of the young protagonist, it does not.

 

Ironically, the strongest elements of the film are traditional: the strong central situation, which was ?ripped from the headlines,? and the casting of the young non-professional, himself an orphan, to play the boy. His impassive face is a perfect camera subject, and we feel even more strongly the emotions which he doesn?t show. To deal with what?s happening, he tells his little brother stories about monsters and aliens (excellent writing, as much as we can tell from the subtitles). I also love the scenes with the yellow baseball cap which is his prize possession for a little. The very best scene, which comes late in the film, involves a snow-covered landscape with the two boys, both dressed in black; a snowman; and a red boot. Oshima looks like a much better director in the composition of these shots.

 

Unfortunately, *Boy* is not available on DVD. Earlier films which are described as ?left-wing, influenced by Godard? don?t sound too appealing. I?ll pass on *In the Realm of the Senses*, thank you very much, but *Cruel Story of Youth* sounds interesting, as does the late film *Taboo*, about homosexual feelings among the samurai warriors.

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*Cruel Story of Youth* is quite good, and has similar themes: a boyfriend uses his girlfriend to get in positions that compromise wealthy businessmen, at which point the boyfriend swoops in and blackmails the men for money. The movie also has wonderful color cinematography of Tokyo at night circa 1960.

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In the realm of the Senses is obviously not for everyone's taste, but I prefer Eiko Matsuda's performance to the nominees for Best Actress in that year, the exception being Liv Ullmann for Face to Face. It is perhaps the best movie to have actual sex in it: and considering that it ends with the strangulation and castration of the lead actor, it's can't be easily dismissed as prurient.

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