Akutarô-den: Warui hoshi no shita demo, Born Under Crossed Stars (1965)
Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Written by: Ryôzô Kasahara, Tôkô Kon
Starring: Masako Izumi, Masao Mishima, Yumiko Nogawa, Zekô Nakamura
BORN UNDER CROSSED STARS (1965)
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Set in the 1920’s, high school student Tokuichi falls for Suzuko, a young woman whose family he delivers milk to. However, when he is tricked into meeting her and is instead greeted by her best friend Taneko, he finds himself under the lure and spell of the flirtatious, promiscuous Taneko.
The final film in Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 1, BORN UNDER CROSSED STARS deals with a teenager who’s torn between two girls. Suzuko is a quiet, studious girl who loves to read Anna Karenina. Her best friend Taneko is a she-vamp who has one thing on her mind: sex. At a time and place where even seen walking with a girl would get you into trouble, Tokuchi is taken aback by the forwardness of Taneko with his own experiences with the opposite sex being pretty much non-existent. Realising Tokuchi is a boy of strong will and high morals, she delights in seducing him and teaching him everything there is about sexual relationships from kissing and being naked with each other to doing the deed itself; something which teenage Taneko has an insatiable appetite for.
After watching the Seijun Suzuki movies, I was quite surprised by the direction in which BORN UNDER CROSSED STARS goes. Up to now, we’ve seen relationships blossom between teenagers but it’s all been in quite a reserved way. Here, for the first time, do we actually witness a teenager, and a girl at that, that has a modern view on sexuality, romance and sex in general. Tokuchi, led by lust alone, is fooled by her and lured into her honey trap as he becomes her latest plaything. What happens to Suzuko whilst Taneko gets steamy with her crush is anyone’s guess as for the vast majority of the movie she’s nowhere to be seen. Finally, three quarter way into the film we see Suzuko on-screen where she and Tokuchi have a confrontation and he decides who he wants to be with. I found this strange as the crux of the story seemed to be this love triangle but how can that be when a major part of that triangle is left out for the majority of the running time?
Outside of the love affair between the kids, Tokuchi’s daft father has found a way to make some cash. Selfish and grumpy, Tokuchi’s father often blows what little they have on gambling but he and his best friend reckon they could make a killing against the rubes down at the local inn. Whilst it all initially starts off well, their plot goes swiftly downhill with a beating as a consequence. Shocked at his father’s injuries, Tokuchi vows to get his own back against the Yakuza gang that battered his father.
BORN UNDER CROSSED STARS is the weakest of the five films from Vol. 1 of the Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years collection. The editing is all over the place and leaves the story incoherent in places which is frustrating to watch as a viewer. The jumping in and out of various scenes with no fluid transitions results in a muddled film with a weakened story. In Suzuki’s other films, you can really get behind the character involved but here it’s hard to find any empathy with any of the characters as the connection between the characters and viewers just isn’t there.
A disappointing end to what is a strong collection, BORN UNDER CROSSED STARS just about gets away with its mediocre screenplay but doesn’t add any real value nor entertainment for the viewer to really enjoy.
Available as part of the Seijun Suzuki: The Early Years Vol. 1 collection