Uncharted Cinema #8: The Warped Ones


Koreyoshi Kurahara, Japan, 1960, 75 min.

Read about the Uncharted Cinema Project here.

Before: I did not recognize the film from the title. I have heard of Koreyoshi Kurahara through Criterion’s Eclipse box set, but I know nothing else about his films. I’m going in completely cold.

After: The Warped Ones is a film full of jazz and anarchy. Akira and Masaru are two juvenile delinquents who, recently released from the detention center, go on a rampage through the city. Their attitude is starkly at odds with the rest of Japanese society, and shows how some of the youth might have felt at the time.

As Akira says in the film, after realizing that the Japanese stole Jazz from the Caucasians, who stole it from the African-Americans. “We are the worst.”

But what is the reason for their mood, which varies from severe anger to severe apathy? It’s not fully explained how they originally got this way, but after being released they quickly go right back to their thieving ways. This time around, Masura finds love with a prostitute friend of Akira. And Akira finds a person to torment, which really pushes the plot in interesting directions.

Akira was originally picked up by the police after a journalist set up a sting. When Akira fortuitously runs into the journalist and his girlfriend, he finds a target to unload his rage upon. The incident that follows supplies the seed that gives the film plenty of engaging scenes exploring the character’s relationship and feelings.

It all leads to one of those great, enigmatic endings. Something P.T. Anderson would have written. But this film is nothing like his. It has more in common with Godard’s Breathless, which was released in the exact same year. The similarities are uncanny.

Mostly, the camerawork, which is fresh and exciting, even today. The camera moves and swivels, changes focus and frames scenes in very interesting ways. It fills the film with an unexpected energy and a feeling that anything can happen, which is exactly how the characters act.

The sound-editing is just as interesting. The pivotal scene at the beach for example. The silence and ambient noise is just as involving as the hip jazz that is the only music on the soundtrack. But while the style is similar to Godard, the subject matter is not. This one isn’t playful. It’s dark and twisted.

Watching this film was remarkable. It raised interesting questions, gave some answers, amazed me with its style, and left me leaning back in my chair in satisfaction when the credits hit the screen. Koreyoshi Kurahara is a director I really to explore, and The Warped Ones is a film that every fan of cinema should watch.

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