Crazed Fruit (1956)
The post-World War II years was an interesting time for Japan. One thing it featured was a revolt by the Japanese youth in their practices of dating and sex.
Enter Crazed Fruit (狂った果実 Kurutta kajitsu), Nakahira Kou’s commentary on how the modern Japanese youngster goes about courting. It follows the young (and still very much a virgin) Haruji (Tsugawa Masahiko) as he meets Eri (Kitahara Mie), and allows his infatuation with her to completely blind him to her ulterior motives.
I have to say Crazed Fruit is one of the most depressing films I have seen in a long time. It may have been because I had a very easy time empathizing with Haruji’s character, but I utterly despised both Eri and Haruji’s older brother Natsuhisa (Ishihara Yujirou, who eventually married Kitahara in real life). It is rare that I want to shout at a female character onscreen something along the lines of, “You are a heartless wench, and I hope you die in a fire!” It shows how Eri enjoys the attention Haruji (and eventually Natsuhisa) gives her as well as what people are willing to give up for sex.
At this point, I should note that Japanese cinema (like Take Aim at the Police Van) in the 1950s and 60s, while not showing anything overt, did tend to be a bit more sexually explicit than contemporary American films. As it is an older movie, which you would expect to be completely clean, I feel like I needed to warn you.
While Crazed Fruit offers some nice social commentary, I’m not really sure it worked as a movie overall. Ishihara Yujirou co-starred with Kitahara in movies like Ore wa Matteru Ze (1957, see 5 Awesome (live action) Japanese Movies), and he is known to play young, hot-headed tough guys like Natsuhisa in Nikkatsu movies. I wish I knew more about Natsuhisa’s motivations besides his desire for sex. Early on in the movie, he and some friends get into a fight with a wrestling team almost at random. I can also say the same about Eri; I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if I knew what was going on in her head. I admittedly felt quite clueless as to how she felt about both of the brothers, but that may have been the movie’s intention. In the meantime, Frank (Okada Masumi), the brothers’ American friend, could do absolutely nothing besides watch helplessly as his friends get destroyed by their obsession with Eri. That said, he contributed little to the movie overall.
While well-intentioned, I will say out of every Japanese film I have ever seen, Crazed Fruit is the one I had the hardest time enjoying, and that was almost completely due to my utter contempt for the characters. Despite the movie aiming to portray the youth of Japan (through the leads) in a negative light, I think the same message could have been carried in a less haphazard way. The film’s ending seemed to have been made purely for its shock value. While it resolved the story, I felt like it nullified everything the movie was aiming for.