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FIGHTING DELINQUENTS (1960)

A.K.A.: Go to Hell, Hoodlums!
            Go to Hell, Roughnecks!
            Kutabare gurentai
            くたばれ愚連隊
COUNTRY: Japan
DIRECTOR: Seijun Suzuki
LANGUAGE: Japanese
SUBTITLES: English
ASPECT RATIO: Cinemascope 2.35:1
DURATION: 80 mins

When Seijun Suzuki was still friends with Nikkatsu he made them a lot of money with his movies, and by in 1960 they were so happy with him that they let him use expensive colour film stock... but after seeing Fighting Delinquents Nikkatsu executives probably turned to each other and said “Oh shit, what have we done?” as Suzuki used the screen to contrast tranquil glimpses of traditional regional life with the emergence of the new Rock 'n' Roll youth culture and the greed and seething cynicism of encroaching Westernisation.

A rebellious youth tale, Fighting Delinquents portrays the head-on collision between traditional and modern Japan as young orphan Sadao is revealed to be the long-lost heir to the respectable Matsudaira clan.

Sadao accepts and moves from the house he shares with a gang of orphans in Kobe to Awaji Island in the hope that he will meet his mother.   Once there Sadao shocks the elders with his joyous lack of respect for the staid rituals and hierarchy of the clan and soon has the venerable house of his grand-mother shaking to the sounds of Rokabirri (see ROKABIRRI: THE SOUND OF JAPANESE TEENAGE REBELLION FOR OVER 60 YEARS).

Sadao is less the delinquent suggested by the title than a pretty decent young man and he uses his new-found power and money to transform the island to benefit all people.   To succeed in his project he has to fight the ruthless face of capitalism represented by an unscrupulous gangster who wants to turn the island into a lucrative amusement park.

In the struggle against greed old and young find a common ground and deeply-rooted class prejudices are overcome in a happy, festive finale. Although this is in many respects Suzuki-lite, Fighting Delinquents already displays some of the director’s typical stylistic flourishes as when a scene of dramatic revelation turns into a series of coloured pop art vignettes.

Shows and performances punctuate the action, from a traditional puppet theatre to bikini-clad nightclub dancers and a fantastically kitsch number sung by an unlikely throaty-voiced pop chanteuse.

The master colourist of Tokyo Drifter and the eccentric iconoclast of Branded to Kill are already visible here and there is a lot of fun to be had from this exuberant, pastel-coloured retro lollipop.   One for Suzuki completists or fans of sixties Japanese camp.


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