The Sun's Burial

A scattershot, cast-of-hundreds feature Oshima made at the time of Naked Youth, where the scope widens from doomed lovers to the doomed society they inhabit. The film is set in the slums of Osaka and investigates the various ways desperate people sell themselves and each other to get by. Poverty leads inexoriably to gangsterism, and two activites in particular that are loaded with symbolic portent – selling your blood and selling your ID documents. The loss of identity implied by the latter is given a cruel twist in that the ringleader behind the scam is a military vet who keeps talking about the restoration of the Japanese Empire and an inevitable conflict with America and Russia. For many this is a compelling myth, so when his hypocricy is exposed, the people riot and decide to burn the little they have down to the ground.

The central character in the film is Hanako (played by Kayoko Honoo making the most of her angular eyeliner) – a hard-as-nails hustler who plays off one gang against another. She becomes infatuated with a naive new yakuza recruit, but their love affair is brief and ends bloodily, trampled by a literal train that may signify the brutal forces of progress transforming the country. Hanako's arc is mostly an excuse for Oshima to frame beautiful young actors against the oppressive Osaka skyline, where the sun is choked off by factory smoke and enclosed by the skeletons of new buildings. The plot is barely comprehensible, but the film's message is nonetheless strikingly direct.

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