Thursday, October 16, 2014

THE WARPED ONES (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1960, Japan)

Eclipse Series 28


Akira’s life is fueled by American Bebop Jazz, sex and alcohol, while trapped in a sweltering tempest of a slum-ish existence without regard to the future. Director Koreyoshi Kurahara embraces this juvenile delinquent and takes the camera into the frenetic and motionless moments of his grim and sweaty world, where rape and love are equitable exchanges as both become improvised and dissonant.  
The story revolves around Akira and is told entirely from his viewpoint. Like Alex DeLarge from Kubrick’s masterful A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Akira’s anarchic lifestyle of narcissistic consumption include the love of music, rape, and ultraviolence. Akira also shares the latter’s use of poetic vocal expression but instead of slang he grins, hoots, howls, and utilizes his voice as a musical instrument as his face contorts like a rubber mask. Where Kubrick depicted his anti-hero with a very rigid and beautifully modernistic style, here Kurahara slings his camera into frantic motion; often moving much faster than the 24fps can capture resulting in a blurring and surreal mosaic of flesh and forgery. The opening credits of freeze-frame pugilism charge directly into the story as Akira is caught in a plot to pickpocket an American who is attempting to pick up his prostitute girlfriend. Kurahara shoots this in one continuous shot as the camera not only moves…but flows with the blaring jazz percussions thrumming underneath the images. Akira is caught by a local reporter and the story becomes a tale of retribution and instant gratifications. Welcome to the Sun Tribe!
The literal translation of the title is SEASON OF HEAT which carries multiple implications. Kurahara often captures Akira is sweaty close-ups, powerless against the raging heat in his dilapidated flat. But the title also alludes to the delinquent lifestyle as the police are always a step behind Akira, turning up the heat. Of course the rising sun is the national symbol so to depict it as torturous and omnipotent, the characters very existence a mere whim to its life giving (and taking) anomalies is rebellious. But the International title also carries its own ambiguities as THE WARPED ONES may refer to Akira and his cohorts and their avant-guard lifestyle but also his victims who prove themselves equally unsettling.  
Akira’s violent rape of a totally innocent Devotchka (sorry wrong film) leads to the story’s central conceit: the comparison of a middle-class couple (the reporter and his girlfriend) to the lower depths (Akira and his prostitute cohort Fumiko) of society. As the narrative develops with a racing, nervous energy it becomes apparent that the distinction between social classes is a matter of superficial appearances; the victim soon becomes victimizer as masks are eventually stripped away. In a society where “losing face” is worse than death, Akira never pretends to be anything other than he is naturally, while the reporter and his girlfriend still hide behind their carrion facades.
Swapping partners becomes the logical deduction as Akira and Fumiko’s laughter throttles the audience from complacence. The final freeze-frame image zooms into Akira’s open mouth as he and his kind swallow the world whole.
Final Grade: (B)
DVD Box Set (5 Discs)
  • THE WARPED ONES (1960)
  • I HATE BUT LOVE (1962)
  • BLACK SUN (1964)
  • THIRST FOR LOVE (1967)

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