Breathless in Tokyo
Koreyoshi Kurahara’s The Warped Ones/Kyonetsu nokisetsu is a nourish seventy-five minutes about three punks who have no values, plans or codes and drift only in the present moment. Subtitled in difficult pale green letters, it’s the second of Japan Society’s eight once monthly “No Borders, No Limits” Nikkatsu Studios Occidental-inflected actioners.
Done a year after Breathless and taking something from Belmondo’s frenetic joyrider and Godard’s mix of cool jazz and Mozart, the film establishes its own look and feel while the Nobuo Yamada script anticipates the degrees of immorality to be made fashionable in the “Dollars” Westerns and even specific Leone bits such as the telegraphist’s flimsy shack that rattles with each passing train. Passé today in the nihilistic “youth culture gone wild” motif, brief handhelds don’t pause for reflection in a constant motion through windshields, running on sands and in surf, or literally skipping along with the hero, looking up through backwards-passing trees at a bright sun that, along with storms, beads that hero in drops of sweat or rain that do not douse the ever present cigarette.
A hooker because, she says, her father died and she needs money, Yuki (Yuko Chiyo) chats up a foreign john in English while accomplice Akira (Tamio Kawachi) rifles the man’s pockets. They are caught on the spot through the efforts of reporter Kashiwagi (Hiroyuki Nagato), though in one of several unintentional confusions some viewers got the impression the latter is a policeman. Soon released from male reformatory, Akira pals around in animalistic grunts with fellow ex-inmate Masaru (Elji Go) and humorously steals a Ford Fairlane. Reunited with also freed Yuki, the three scam another john and head for the beach, where in a parking area they sideswipe Kashiwagi before forcing his fiancée Fumiko Sunada (Noriko Matsumoto) into the car. While his two companions frolic in the water, Akira makes the odd grimaces that characterize him throughout, punches and rapes the unconscious woman on the dunes, and sells the vehicle to a garageful of specialized kids whose “pops” is in jail.
The three criminals share a rickety flat. Akira's two accomplices make love mornings, so he does funny calisthenics and scours about to steal milk bottles, dogs, pay telephones, eggs, chickens, newspapers, motorbikes, whatever found odds and ends are not nailed down. He lewdly propositions anything in a skirt but nevertheless comes across as a scrawny kid and not “the wild type” model a fey artist sees in him. The woman he forced on the sands is a modernist painter, into whose studio he then intrudes a few times.
Despite a laughable blasé manner that avoids fights or joining the Kanto gang and gives way to anger only this once, when it is calmed by discriminated-against black American Gill (Chico Roland), Akira seems more admirable, or less hypocritically despicable, than the respectable fiancés. Ironically, at an abortion center, Akira metes out inspired poetic justice that insures continuity in two lives-to-be and offers sardonic comment on a society in which the Bad are more honest than the Good because their amorality is constant, not situational.
The Warped Ones might years back have run into censorship problems. Tame and ungraphic today even with a flat matter-of-fact veneer over controversial concepts, the film says something about its time and, though the final twists also apply to people now, the full punch is much diluted.
(Released by Audobon Productions; not rated by MPAA.)