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Countercurrents: The Films of Yasuzo Masumura

Saturday, September 20, 1997
A False Student
Yasuzo Masumura Japan, 1960

(Nise daigakusei). Based on a novel by Kenzaburo Oe, this is a fascinating picture of anomie and conformity in the context of the pressures of Japanese society. A young man, Otsu (Jerry Fujio), is determined to fulfill his mother's dream that he go to college, but repeatedly fails the entrance exam. After years of studying, he cannot give up on her dream, which in turn has become his own. He convinces himself and others that he is a student. Very soon Otsu is caught up in the politics of a Maoist study group whose young adherents have all the pretensions and cruelty of their self-serving elders. Things take an extraordinary and gruesome turn when Otsu is thought to be a police informer and the comrades take matters into their own hands. Masumura films this tragedy with just the mixture of distance and curiosity our intelligent compassion requires; anything more intimate would be excruciating.

• Written by Yoshio Shirasaka, based on a novel by Kenzaburo Oe. Photographed by Hiroshi Murai. With Ayako Wakao, Jerry Fujio, Eiji Funakoshi, Ichizo Itami. (94 mins, In Japanese with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From The Japan Foundation, permission Daiei)