Vintage Pulp Feb 28 2019
SHUNPU DEN OF INIQUITY
The winds of war blow hard and cruel over man and woman alike.


This striking pink poster was made to promote Shunpu den, known in English as Story of a Prostitute. Based on a novel by Taijiro Tamura, this is another of director Seijun Suzuki's envelope pushing dramas. He made a habit of disobeying the directives of his studio Nikkatsu and here he crafts a tale that refuses to simply extol the virtues and glories of the Japanese military. Plotwise, a woman falls in love with a lieutenant's lowly aide, and as the superior officer torments her, she and the subordinate embark on a forbidden affair. This occurs during the Sino-Japanese War circa 1935, and when the Chinese attack, the question of honor versus survival comes to the fore.

A lot of reviews call the lead character here, played by Yumiko Nogawa, a prostitute, but that's a simplification. She plays an ianfu or comfort woman, which was a form of sexual bondage usually reserved for foreigners. Ianfu were sent around to military garrisons to have sex with soldiers, and sometimes the ratio of women to men was very lopsided. We've seen 1:1000 cited, but can't confirm that independently. Lawsuits about this are still crawling through international courts. Japan's oldest English language newspaper The Japan Times recently was called out for acquiescing to Prime Minster Shinz┼Ź Abe's insistence that ianfu be referred to by terminology less embarrassing to Japan.

Westerners generally won't have all this history in mind when watching Shunpu den, but it's useful to consider. Nogawa's character Harumi is Japanese and a volunteer, so in both respects she's atypical compared to the reality of Korean, Indonesian, and Filipino women abducted by the tens of thousands. With this type of subtext to the backstory, and a foreground occupied by men indoctrinated into a military corps bound by an intractable and sometimes suicidal code of conduct, a happy ending seems like an impossibility. But you never know. However it turns out, the worth of dramatic cinema is in the trying. Shunpu den premiered in Japan today in 1965

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 19
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
March 18
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
March 17
1966—Missing Nuke Found
Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the deep submergence vehicle Alvin locates a missing American hydrogen bomb. The 1.45-megaton nuke had been lost by the U.S. Air Force during a midair accident over Palomares, Spain. It was found resting in nearly three-thousand feet of water and was raised intact on 7 April.
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