-MONTHLY FILM & TV REVIEW-
If You Were Young: Rage|
cast: Tetsuo Ishidate, Gin Maeda, Choichiro Kawarazaki, Hideki Hayashi, and Ryonosuke Minegishi
director: Kinji Fukasaku
90 minutes (15) 1970
Tartan DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Paul Higson
Few in the west know the name of Kinji Fukasaku, and of those who do few have a real overview
of the director's style, if a style he had at all as a director. One might have to see the late
Fukasaku's entire catalogue and still not connect the dots, pin down common themes or identify
a through thread. Better known for his blistering shocker
and previously with the high schlock, space station monster movie The Green Slime ("Is
it something in your head/ will you believe it when you're dead" - went the lyrics on the pop
psychedelic title track), a couple of labels took interest and began rummaging through a real pick 'n'
mix of genres, resulting in the occasional release of Fukasaku's yakuzi gangster and teen angst fare.
Tartan, in their continuing devotionals to the directors who contributed to the critical success of
the label, including too much time on Takashi Miike, have finally returned to Fukasaku. Given that
Fukasaku died before he could complete the sequel to Battle Royale, it could said that there
was not that urgency to pay direct tribute to the director and it was clearly more rewarding for
relations to focus on the living. Five years after his death this return to the very early work of
Fukasaku was clearly a genuine tribute. It is a bit late in the day for the company, given that the
DVD will now find its way out onto shelves in the wake of the collapse of the releaser Tartan.
If You Were Young: Rage, made in 1970, is a drama about five disparate youths who take an
entrepreneurial leap into private enterprise, toiling hard and pooling together their wages in order
to raise enough to buy their own truck. Come the time to buy that vehicle one is dead, another in
prison, and a third has slipped back into the psychological slum, a demanding wife and child in tow
now, and a mock protective stance distancing him from any risk taking, financial or otherwise: personal
safety of premiere importance. Kikuo (Tetsuo Ishidate) and Asao (Gin Maedo) take on the vehicle. Kikuo
and Asao brought a long-standing friendship to the group, fermented in an orphan setting.
They naively try to extend their great friendship to this wider circle, the paying back of the debt
of gratitude leading to circumstances that will eat into and destroy the Kikuo/ Asao relationship. The
premise is ironic given to how it correspondents to one of the elements that might possibly have contributed
to Tartan's downfall. How do you repay a dead man? How do you include a second man who has excluded himself
and wants his percentage of the business back at the same time that repayments are being made on the loan
that was taken out in order to complete the purchase of the vehicle? How dangerous might it get bringing
the relatives of the imprisoned colleague into the equation, a mother and a sister living on a pittance?
Unable to help him in the moment, they could pay him back through kindnesses to his next of kin. They
mistakenly convince the mother and sister that there is a good in the brother that the sister initially
finds impossible to see. It will backfire on them all when that regained trust will then become abused
again when he breaks from prison adding to the conflict and endangering their lives. Kikuo and Asao are
already fighting over the girl. One more will die and all remaining friendships ruptured irreparably.
The 'golden egg' gang of five formed out of the remnants of a workforce receiving their redundancy
packages are introduced in flashback and at a point in the present also when the young men are
enthusiastic, ebullient and idealistic. Apart they have been weak, the group friendship steeling
them into something workable, positive, a real force and a hope. One of the number takes a job
riven with bad karma but dies following a switch of allegiance to protect the protesters at a rally
when the brigade he is part of savagely suppresses them with batons. The death of the popular young
man sends a confusing cascade of messages and there is not the time to mentally unpick them. The
survivors' positivity is diffused and the cracks start. To some extent it strengthens Kikuo and
Asao in their resolve. They appear to grow up, but the splintered vestiges of youth remain and the
dream turns to shards with them.
The pace of the film is quick. There are flashbacks, the narrative jumps backwards and forwards
repeatedly, in and out of colour. Hand-held cameras are used and the film is as unsettled as the
young people featured. It is reminiscent of the busy exploitation films that came out of the UK
at the turn of the 1970s, Pete Walker and Robert Hartford-Davies dramas uncertain of how many
component parts violent, social and sexual to incorporate for maximum effect. Fukasaku adds a
socio-political aspect to the exploitation mix. It is never dull, but the technique is too unsettling
for the viewer. The flashbacks keep characters in the frame, even after they are dead or would
chronologically be out of the picture, but the relationships and our identification with them is
too befuddling as the viewer struggles to keep emotional continuity with them over the different
points in the timeline. This could all level out over repeat viewings but I am not compelled to
immediately return. The finale leaves you disappointed with all the characters, at their failure,
not so much in becoming self-sufficient and the owners of a business but in the collapse of friendships.
You feel there is no future and without hope there is nothing to go back to the very beginning for.