The more you Zoom the weirder everything looks.
Above is a poster for Zûmu appu: Bôkô hakusho, aka Zoom Up: Sexual Crime Report, the fourth film in the Zoom Up series. This installment starred Yuki Kazamatsuri and Rie Hirase, and premiered in Japan today in 1981. Where do we start with this? Kazamatsuri plays a disc jockey married to a powerful businessman. One night on her way to the radio station she's raped by a gang of creeps on motorcycles, and it turns out this was not a random attack. That's already a spoiler, so we'll stop there.
As always, we try to remember that Nikkatsu Studios was in the business of making money. The directors and screenwriters had a lot of artistic freedom, and occasionally tried to embed social commentary and deep metaphor in these films. But you know how it goes with metaphor—if you suspect it's there you'll look for it until you strain your brain. Broadly speaking, roman porno avoids the feminist patriarchy smashing of pinky violence films, usually denying women any sort of cathartic retribution. We stress usually. Even in this retrograde genre women sometimes get the opportunity to make men eat cold steel, or hot lead, as the case may be. Which path does Zûmu appu: Bôkô hakusho take? We ain't saying.
If you look around the internet the very few reviews of roman porno films you find are by males, usually in Japanese. We sometimes add to the all-male chorus, but just as often we keep our write-ups vague, focusing mainly on the poster art. We hope one day there'll be a more diverse online analysis of these, particularly of two types: in English from Japanese viewers who can provide social context we can't; and from women. The latter you might expect us to get from PI-1 and PI-2 (did we mention they're out of town?), but they refuse to watch these. Maybe, truly, that's the most incisive analysis of all.
Wait, so this is all a cinematic metaphor?
Ahh, a wonderful, relaxing metaphor for womblike security.
Oh no! A terrible, disturbing metaphor for survival in a hostile world!
Lalalala... slurp.... gurgle... metaphor.... lalalalalala...
Shhh... trust me. This is a metaphor you're really going to enjoy.
Maybe these metaphors will be clearer without my glasses.
Another relationship goes sour for Yuki K.
Above is another promo poster with roman porno queen Yuki Kazamatsuri, this time for her film Chijoku no heya, aka Room of Shame. Yuki's cab driver hubby has an accident and becomes impotent, leading to infidelity spiced up with various kinky deviations. You can always count on Yuki to pick the wrong man. Audiences loved her serial predicaments. By the time this effort appeared she was a huge box office draw, as evidenced by the fact that during 1981 and 1982 she appeared on the screen in no fewer than twelve starring or co-starring roles. That's a lot of failed relationships. She later had small parts in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, and this year appeared in a mini-series. All-in-all a very nice run in show business, still ongoing. Chijoku no heya premiered in Japan today in 1982
Kazamatsuri finds herself in another difficult spot.
We last saw Yuki Kazamatsuri in the 1982 roman porno flick Onna kyôshi-gari, starring with a cast of men behaving badly. With that in mind we took a look at Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima..., aka Wife's Sexual Fantasy Before Husband's Eyes, and basically the same thing happens. This time her husband becomes the victim of blackmail and a frame-up, and as part of his coercion the bad guys make him offer Kazamatsuri to them for depraved sex. She of course agrees because it's to save her husband's skin, and this being a roman porno flick, she discovers she likes it and wants more of the same. So there you go. Once again we need to point out that roman porno is not hardcore, but rather something just a bit more edgy than late night Cinemax, though the plots tend to be well outside accepted American norms. Well outside. But at least you can console yourself that it's all just acting. Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima... premiered in Japan today in 1982.
Suddenly being the teacher’s pet doesn’t sound so bad.
Just because we had it sitting on our hard drive, here’s an image of Japanese actress Yuki Kazamatsuri, who we discussed just last week after watching her movie Onna kyôshi-gari, aka Female Teacher Hunting. She posed for this promo image around that time, 1982.
Yes, in pinku films there actually is a point to all that bloodspray.
You know what we like about pinku films? Their symmetry. Generally, slimy guys have the upper hand for about 65 minutes before the girls band together and, to the accompaniment of arterial bloodspray to spice things up, shoot them or stab them or chop off their heads. It’s nice. Balanced. In that way they’re like blaxploitation movies. In those, generally, the villain meets ruin at the hands of a black hero or anti-hero. Nice, you see? The films touch on serious problems—sexism and racism—but in a freewheeling, taboo-busting fashion that both entertains and makes the antagonist’s eventual violent demise a catharsis for audiences that know the wicked aren’t generally punished in real life. Taking all that into account then, you can see why removing the cathartic revenge from the proceedings would be problematic.
But that’s exactly what has happened with Onna kyôshi-gari, aka Female Teacher Hunting. Director Junichi Suzuki and writer Hiroshi Saitô, at the behest of Nikkatsu Studios, actually want to make a serious movie about gender roles and sex, but cloaked in a quasi-pinku flick in which a student falsely accused of sexual assault is driven by stress and rage over his predicament to later commit a sexual assault. It’s all beautifully shot andquite well acted, but what’s the message here? Was the monster always part of this man? Was he falsely accused because his accuser already saw this in him? Does the old saying about how any man will kill under the right circumstances also apply to rape? All are worthy themes to explore, but not embedded in a movie genre that by nature trivializes serious questions.
But the message of Onna kyôshi-gari might be something else entirely. Maybe it’s simply telling us—at a time when women were gaining more control over their own bodies and, after long last, wresting an iota of political power from the male establishment—that sexual consent was becoming a blurrier concept for confused men losing their hold on the top of the pyramid. But we don’t buy that either. For our part, we can’t remember the line between consent and coercion being blurry—at least not outside well-crafted fiction, and certainly not during the 1980s, when this movie was made. But as always there’s a disclaimer—wearen't Japanese, have never lived in Japan, and don’t know the culture deeply. If there’s one thing we’ve learned doing this site it’s that language, psychology, behavior, metaphors and signifiers simply don’t translate from culture to culture. In other words, for all we know this may be considered in Japan to be a wildly feminist movie. Nevertheless, we have to assess Onna kyôshi-gari as best we can with our deficiencies, and we say: interesting effort, but in pinku, realism without revenge converts the sex to sadism, and this entire movie into an anti-feminist polemic.
The star of the film (and poster), Yuki Kazamatsuri, in the final scene discovers a killifish inexplicably living in a swimming pool. She observes to her female friend, “Killifish are strong—I guess they can live even in a pool.” And of course the fish are metaphorical women and the pool is male-dominated society. But sorry, after an entire plot suggestingwomen are complicit in their own degradation, a morsel of dialogue telling us they’re tough enough to take it (and men are to be forgiven for supposed weakness) doesn’t excuse what came before. On the contrary—it makes it worse. Onna kyôshi-gari premiered in Japan today in 1982. |
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