Summer heat transforms us, creeping into our bodies, warming our blood and making our skin blush with perspiration. Other odors, not just those of bodies, are more pronounced in the heat. The palpable physicality of summer makes me think of it as a season of passion, and what better film to represent this season than Cruel Story of Youth (1960) 青春残酷物語, a film directred by the uncompromising and unique Nagisa Oshima 大島 渚.
But I’m not here to review the film. Plenty of other reviews are out there; there’s a good synopsis from TCM. But I do have to quibble with TCM on a minor detail.
Five minutes into the film, the two lovers meet for their first date in the midst of student protest over the Japan-United State security pact of 1960. The had recently come into a little bit of money, and the young man says, “Let’s go. We can’t blow that money hanging out here.”
We soon cut to a motorboat cruising into a narrow channel, surrounded by floating logs. The boat was presumably rented with their small windfall. According to the TCM synopsis, the two lovers meet “during a stroll along a river”. Perhaps in one’s memory, the channel becomes a river – the presence of the logs is not explained, and hardly any viewer would have any frame of reference for such a strange sight. It resembles nothing other than a sea of logs.
What happens on those logs is memorable. He chases her playfully, she laughs, they kiss, she slaps him, he slaps her twice, harder. Soon, he pushes her into the water. She says she can’t swim. He won’t help her out until she agrees to be a bit more, shall we say, friendly with him. Depending on your perspective, this scene is quite disturbing…
…and both times I’ve watched the film all I could think about were those darn logs. Where did they come from? Where was this filmed? This question stuck with me until last weekend when I finally made a concerted effort to locate the filming location. Other than the logs, some stone mounds, and (briefly) a factory on the background, there are few clues. I was led down the wrong path when I read in a Japanese blog that the scene was filmed in a certain neighborhood of Tokyo. I spent a few hours of frustrated research, but eventually righted the ship and located the exact spot of the following few frames, which I’ve stitched together:
I’ve split this photo into two parts for your convenience:
My search led me to two valuable tools that I plan to use again in similar research (namely, the GIS database and the University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection; these are fabulous resources.
Do you know where this scene was filmed? If you know, or would like to guess, feel free to leave a comment below. I will post the answer, along with my research, in my next post.