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Japan, 1979 (MIFF 1981, New Directors)

Director: Mitsuo Yanagimachi

It is most unusual for a Japanese director to be "discovered" from his first feature film. In general it seems that a director attracts attention only after several films, and henceforth sends the archivists scuttling back to earlier unknown work A break with this tradition has occurred with A 19-Year-Old's Plan directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi.

Yanagimachi was born in 1 945 and on graduating he worked as an assistant director on documentaries and educational films In 1 976 he made a documentary feature on 1 6mm about a motorcycle gang. It was bought by Toei, one of the Japanese majors, blown up to 35mm and nationally distributed. Its success enabled him to make his first dramatic feature. Of all countries in the world, Japan prints the largest number of daily and evening newspapers The reason for this can be found in the country's unique method of distribution: no Japanese buys newspapers from a shop or a kiosk, but instead has them delivered to the home twice a day. Each newspaper, therefore, has its own distribution network covering the whole country Each distribution centre hires delivery boys, the great majority of whom are students or young people needing a temporary job. It is particularly common to find students from poor families paying their way through college by this means.

The student Yoshioka Masaru in A 19-Year-Old's Plan is just such a case. He has come to Tokyo from his home in the country, and is studying to prepare himself for his University entrance examination. He lives with other young delivery boys in a poor district of the city and delivers papers twice a day to help pay his way.

The actor Honma Yuji, who plays Yoshioka, was born in 1 958 in Tokyo He was the leader of the Black Emperor Motorcycle Gang, who were the subject of Yanagimachfs first feature-length documentary. His acting debut in A 19-Year-Old's Plan has launched him on to a successful new career.

"The 19 year-old is Masaru Yoshioka, an introverted, virginal student who works a paper round to help pay his way through college His "plan" is a strange map of the houses he delivers to, marked with the points-ratings he awards to individual householders for their behavior towards him. Eventually, inevitably, he begins to take out his resentments and frustrations on these hapless clients. he starts phoning them anonymously, threatening to blow up the district gasometer Yanagimachi's first feature (after several documentaries) invites comparison with other recent Japanese films about troubled adolescence, from Hasegawa's Murderer of Youth to Yokoyamas Jun Like them, it centres on a hysterically repressed young man whose actions become increasingly fascistic, and its view of Japanese society is astringently pessimistic In style, though, it's closer to Oshima: cool, analytic and very, very provocative."

Tony Rayns London Film Festival Programme

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