The main characters in this stunningly-shot 1960s Art House morality tale of Japanese delinquents are, like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, seriously flawed and not especially likable, but very watchable.

Lovely but naive high school student Makato is saved from being raped by an older man she foolishly cadges a lift from, Her saviour is violent and criminally-inclined Uni student Kiyoshi, who then really rapes her and slaps her around, to which she responds by being besotted and obedient. Her young thug sees her as a way to make some cash by setting up honey traps for rich middle-aged Japanese men, using her as bait and turning up to beat them up and extort money. This goes well until Makato becomes pregnant with a child that Kiyoshi definitely doesn’t want, and one of the men she tries to seduce is contrastingly kinder to her than Kiyoshi, not terribly difficult. After this things slide swiftly down to a grisly Bonnie and Clyde ending for both of them, a shocking nemesis of keeping bad company.

The Cruel Story of Youth was originally released as Naked Youth, written a directed by Japanese New-Wave director Nagisa Oshima, who also directed the thought-provoking WW2 PoW drama Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, with Tom Conti and David Bowie. It was released in a dual-format Blu-Ray/DVD edition last year by Eureka Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema series and comes with a new video interview with film critic Tony Rayns, and a 36-page booklet with rare background and archivel material.

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