Crazed Fruit: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

If it’s one thing this viewer has noticed, it’s that Japanese cinema can either be a great mystery with a lot of open ends or a straight forward piece with it’s share of surprises. One film made in the fifties fits in the latter and got away with a few words and went a distance far beyond the cinema in the US were going. It’s a story about love, fun and deception. Even when you take a bite out of it, the result remains a piece of Crazed Fruit.

It is the summer and two brothers, Natsuhisa and Haruji, plan to live it up skiing the waters and find a girl of their own. One day amongst their travels Haruji encounters a pretty girl during a train trip. At first, it seems like another person passing by and giving a pleasant look until one time on their water travels, they encounter her again mistaking her for a drowning swimmer. It’s after this that the younger brother, Haruji, takes a liking to her and looks to pursue her but as it turns out this special attractive female has a few secrets of her own.

I had never heard of this filmmaker before and after this film, I’m very curious to see what else he has done for he has made a film that was very much ahead of it’s time and took a good deal of chances. At first the film looks like a Japanese take on a summer teen film but as the film progresses in it’s short running time the audience is embroiled in its tale of a woman and the element of obsession and it’s flaws.

As Haruji, Masahiko Tsugawa (who resembles a young Ken Watanabe) displays the younger brother that tags along with his older brother’s friends and soaks up every bit of fun time for when a pretty girl comes into his life, he cannot help but be smitten and surprisingly so does the girl but what he doesn’t know can come back.

Natsuhisa, as played by Yujiro Ishihara, is an older brother who goes within his limits to protect his brother but as the film progresses, his jealousy rages like a wild fire and pretty soon the water he seems to ski in gets hot very quickly.

This film also does some innovative stuff for that time such as a multi-head conversation as well as presenting some profanity that wouldn’t make it’s way to American cinema until the middle of the next decade.

With an overall theme of what a girl can do and affect men and a tone that was way ahead of it’s time along with a score that is a tip of the hat to the American youth films of the fifties, Crazed Fruit is one that will keep an audience obsessed with each minute just as much as the two brothers in this film.

Video: How does it look?

Criterion gives a good full frame transfer to Crazed Fruit but with the film age comes spots and blotches and an occasional speck and shake or two to show a few more print flaws. Despite all of those, the film’s picture quality is not hindered by such problems as the film maintains a nice balance within it’s black and white photography that shows some very nice night scenes without too much debris and day scenes without too many breaks. The look of the film does cry out for color as most of the scenes take place on the water but overall it does a decent job despite it’s limits transferwise.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital Mono track doesn’t call so much for the volume to be raised as it balances the dialogue and effects very well. It even has a most amusing yell (which sounded looped but to this viewer is all the more funny) in the opening parts of the film that very well could’ve inspired the Dukes of Hazzard. There are a good amount of effects and a lot of dialogue and most of it comes from the middle channels with very little coming through the outer channels in this track. The result is good but not great and like it’s video tranfer does a decent job. This disc also has English subtitles and the film can be viewed with or without them.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Crazed Fruit has few extras but are effective nonetheless and they start off with an interesting track from Japanese film scholar Donald Ritchie who’s track was recorded in 2002 and goes to show that some films can take longer than others to get on DVD even with recorded material handy. Here he chats about the history of the actors and the film itself along with mentioning a period of films related to this one that lasted a few years and not much else since. The track is never boring and is a worthwhile listen of facts and backstory.

Finally, there is the film’s theatrical trailer full screen and in subtitles. It’s interesting to see the Japanese take on a theatrical trailer at that time and it’s best viewed after viewing the feature.

With a film that in later years could’ve been guaranteed an “R” or in more recent years “PG-13”, Crazed Fruit handles it’s materials well thanks to a storyline that takes many turns and a good Criterion disc that makes for worthy viewing.

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