© 1974 Toei Company

Jeans Blues: No Future (1974)

This Japanese film starts with one of the most exciting sequences ever put together. As a searing fuzz guitar soundtrack wails, extreme zooms of newspaper headlines reporting robberies,  hold ups and shootings are shuffled with overhead views of ’70s hipsters dancing in a funky little bar. This frantic intercutting is occasionally interposed with views of the stone-faced actress Meiko Kaji, sat at the bar staring into space, oblivious to the dancers and so immobile the shots might as well have been still photographs. This opening sequence should be studied in film schools alongside the show scene in Psycho.

After this explosive introduction, the story, a take on the Bonnie and Clyde paradigm set in contemporary Japan, starts, but the pace only occasionally slows down. Meiko Kaji built a career on her ability to transmit only the subtlest of expressions to her raven hair-framed face. Although she is best known for her the Female Prisoner: Scorpion series and the period action film Lady Snowblood, this is perhaps the role for which she was best suited. When a large-scale orgy breaks out in the bar where Hijiriko works, she can not even be bothered to glance in the general direction. Fed up, she grabs all the money from the bar’s cash register, flips the radio station to one playing patriotic war songs, killing the mood of all the revelers, and steals a patron’s car. Meanwhile, a band of gangsters are an a barren industrial landscape, digging a shallow grave and beating the hell out of a man who tried to make off with a bag of their money. One of their number takes it into his mind to keep the money for himself, and drives off with the suitcase. He and the bar maid collide at an intersection, and their stolen cars burst into flames. When another motorist stops to help them, they steal his car and take off, the sound of police sirens approaching in the distance. When they stop to catch their breath and have a beer at a roadside cafe, they get to know each other:

How can a woman like you do that kind of thing?
Because nothing is fun anymore.
Not fun?
But I felt good when I saw the cars on fire.

This proto-punk exchange pretty much seals their fate, but there is certainly a wild and nihilistic ride before they get there, as they stowaway in a shipping container that brings them from Tokyo to Kyoto, where they steal a shotgun from a duck hunter and do target practice on a Japanese flag in an abandoned farmhouse, before winding up in one last shootout with the police.

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