Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Shonen
Japan, 1969. Art Theatre Guild, Sozosha. Screenplay by Tsutomu Tamura. Cinematography by Seizo Sengen, Yasuhiro Yoshioka. Produced by Masayuki Nakajima, Takuji Yamaguchi. Music by Hikaru Hayashi. Production Design by Shigemasa Toda. Film Editing by Sueko Shiraishi, Keiichi Uraoka.
A ten year-old boy becomes a master con artist when his unemployed father and opaque stepmother get him involved in their shady moneymaking ways. Their method of extorting large amounts of cash from innocent victims is to pretend to get hit by cars in live traffic and then take reparation money from drivers, which they do all around Japan while constantly outrunning the authorities and their own rootless nature.
The lifestyle of running on empty eventually begins to weigh on the young man’s mind, partly a moral awakening caused by a climactic event but also a mental fatigue that ages him beyond his years.
Nagisa Oshima, never one to shy away from the darker nature of human connections, avoids any kind of hectoring his characters for their flaws but he does not try to justify them either; his gorgeous solid-block colours in a glorious widescreen frame allow his human characters to create their survival in their own indulgent way, the director watching with frank amusement as their wickedness eventually catches up with them.