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Japanese erotic films

Ai No Corrida/In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon.com]

Nikkatsu Roman Porn [...]

Black Snow became the first of a number of similar cases in which the world of cinema clashed against the courts. These included the Nikkatsu Roman Porno case between 1972 and '78 (Roman Porno was an erotic product line created by the studio and designed to package the pinku within a more commercially accessible format typified by Chusei Sone's 1972 offering Hellish Love/Seidan botan-dôrô (1972) and Noboru Tanaka's The Abe Sada Story/Jitsuroku: Abe Sada, in 1975), and the infamous trial surrounding Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses (Ai No Koriida 1976) in the late 70s. --Jasper Sharp, http://www.midnighteye.com/features/focus_takechi.shtml

Pink films [...]

Of the vast numbers of corporate-made genre films that flooded Japan in the 1970s, Donald Richie once remarked that the "West knows nothing of these pictures, nor should it."[Richie’s introduction to Audie Bock’s Japanese Film Directors (New York: Kodansha, 1990, p. 9).] For many years, Richie’s dictum remained almost unwritten law, and throughout the 1960s, ’70’s, and ’80s, there had been no more conspicuous lacuna in the West’s knowledge of Japanese genre filmmaking than the softcore pink film (pinku eiga), whose daunting superabundance, destitute budgets, anarchic politics, and penchant for rough sadomasochism had traditionally impeded any wide distribution abroad. But as the elitist auteurism of the 1960s gave way to the populist, mock-anthropological genre studies of the 1980s and ’90s, as fringe sexual demographics have tentatively emerged from their scarlet-lettered closets, and as Asian chic curries more currency than ever before, the pink film has finally made its entrance onto commercially distributed video and DVD. Synapse Films has recently released pinku eiga guru Wakamatsu Koji’s Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969) and Ecstasy of the Angels (1970), and now the British company Screen Edge gifts us with three more recent (and less political) pink films: Sato Toshiki’s Tandem (1994), Sato Hisayasu’s The Bedroom (1992), and Zeze Takahisa’s The Dream of Garuda (1994). -- Andrew Grossman, http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/36/pinkfilms1.html

Koji Wakamatsu [...]

Koji Wakamatsu is one of the more important directors to have worked in the pink film (pinku eiga), a genre of softcore, dramatically charged films which were dominant on the Japanese domestic scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s (the roman porn were a more radical and explicit subset of the pink film). The Japanese studios who produced these films, including Nikkatsu, were reluctant to distribute these films abroad, for fear of the sort of image the films would project of Japan. Seeing these films today one must conclude that it was not the more obvious sexual display that worried the Japanese, but the radical anarchist politics of the films, perhaps above all else, often compounded by violent sadomasochism, and the undercurrent of misogyny.--Donato Totaro

Japanese Pornographic Cinema

via http://www.tranquileye.com/historyofporn/japanese_porn.html [Oct 2004]

Japanese Porn

Beginning in the early '60s and running through today, Japanese filmmakers combined sex with violence to make a product far nastier than that allowed by America and many European countries. One early title well sums up the Japanese idea of eroticism, The Joys of Torture.

In Kaneto Shindo Onibaba, two nymphomaniacs lure warriers into traps before raping and eating them. In Kiyonori Suzuki's [Seijun Suzuki?] Nikutai no Mon, a group of prostitutes living in an abandoned house punish each other for break house rules. Some victims are suspended from the ceiling and whipped, others are shaved and placed in a net for public view. Suzuki's films of the early '60s - The Brute, The Woman Sharper, Flower and Blood - took place in the slums of Tokyo. His characters are prostitutes, pimps and gangsters.

On the verge of bankruptcy, Japan's oldest studio saved itself in 1972 by producing "roman poruno" - romantic pornographic films. At the time, Japan's slumping box office forced five major production companies out of business.

Nikkatsu Corporation used respectable bugets, innovative camera angles, superb acting and strong plots to produce high quality "roman porno" movies which won acclaim for their quality.

Japan's young directors faced unusual restrictions - Japan's Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee prohibited exposure of the genitals or the pubic regions, so their sex scenes had to stay soft. In response to restrictions on sex, Japanese directors responded like their peers around the world, and poured on the violence.

Japanese porn of the 1970s through today overflows with rape, bondage and sado-masochism. "Pink films," as softcore exploitation films are known in Japan, had been around for decades. The year 1972 however ushered in real movies about sex.

Love Hunter and The Smell of the Wildcat passed the Ethics Committee screening board in 1973 but police seized the prints. In a famous obscenity case, the courts ruled that the films could be shown, guaranteeing large audiences.

According to Magill's Survey of Cinema, director Noboru Tanaka "merges harsh worlds and expressive images with a poetic lyricism and a sense of surrealism" in his films. Tatsumi Kumashiro is known for creating works of pure sensual pleasure, such as The World of Geisha which recreates geisha and teahouse life in Tokyo's gay headquarters in 1918. Using the small tatmi mat room as a symbol of closed-space sex, this witty film features sensual photography through a mosquito net on a sweltering summer night. In The Peculiar Triangle, Kumashiro describes the twisted relationship between a foppish University of Tokyo graduate who discovers he's gay, a gangster and a bar hostess who brings home her customers. Tatsumi satirizes his breed of filmmakers looking for loopholes in Professional Specialists, a comedy with erotic moments.

In Flowers and Serpents, director Masaru Konuma transforms bondage and torture into ecstasy while making a black comedy more bizarre than Kon Ichikawa's 1959 classic Odd Obsession. Koyu Obara takes torture seriously in Trapped, which depicts atrocities of military police during World War II, and The Inside Story of a Women's Prison.

In The Naked Seven, 1973, Yasuharu Hasebe uses a group of attractive Amazon warriors to spoof a classic samurai story.

The Story of Sada Abe tells the same story of Japan's internationally best known porno - In the Realm of the Senses. They were the Japanese sensations of the mid '70s, dramatizing the true story of a World War II era Japanese prostitute. The hardcore scenes in Senses had to be airbrushed in Japan.

Magill's Survey of Cinema calls 1976's Senses a "fascinating study of radical extremes... Sada (Eiko Matsuda) and Kichi (Tatsuya Fuji) engage in incessant and shameless copulation which excites servant girls, geishas and other around them bound to the workaday world. Kichi becomes increasingly anxious to please Sada, and, to prolong his erections, she repeatedly strangles him, until, as they both seem to foresee, he dies."

Director Nagisa Oshima's was a leading figure in the Japanese New Wave in the early 1960s. Another leading member in the movement observed, "I'm a country farmer; Nagisa is a samurai."

Oshima belongs to the radical school of Jean-Luc Godard and Dusan Makavejev, "a product of the clash between surviving folk traditions, feudalism, industrialization and Westernization." (Magill)

"The Japanese seem absolutely fascinated with bondage, torture and sexual status," writes William Rotsler in his 1973 book Contemporary Erotic Cinema. "Or so it seems from their exported sex films and magazines. It is always the women who are tied and tortured and I wonder if this is a manifestation of the rise of women crying for their rights in a country that historically has relegated women tot he lowest social rung. perhaps the Japanese male feels threatened by this upsurge and gets gratification in seeing woman after woman humiliated, hurt, subjected to violent rapes, tied helpless, cut, beaten, tattooed, and whipped.

Rotsler interviewed an American Valerie who stripped in Japan, Saigon, Singapore and the Philippines.

"The Orientals are so much into that male-superiority shit that they just don't care about you," said Valerie. "While I was in Tokyo I was offered this part in a film... They were supposed to drag me into this torture chamber at their stronghold and in I went, wearing only this dumb rag tied around me and these actors copping feels on my tits and ass whenever they could.

"I was tied to a waterwheel and half drowned. They spun the wheel and held me upside down under water until I was supposed to give up... I couldn't move. The ropes and knots were real! The water was real! I was really drowning!

"I did one [film] in the Philippines where I didn't take my clothes off but all the rest were nudies. I never had any leads... I was just a body. I was raped a lot. They really like rapes over there, especially white girls.

"In Hong Kong I heard about some white girls doing pornography for these Chinese guys from Macao, which is one of the really evil places on this earth! I heard, too, that some of the white chicks have never come back from there!"

From the chapter "An Actor in Japanese Pink Films: An Interview with Koichi Imaizumi." Book - "Queer Japan." Compiled, translated and edited by Barbara Summerhawk, Cheiron McMahill, and Darren McDonald. Norwich, VT: New Victoria Publishers, 1998. $16.95.

Pink films, which the non-Japanese observer might consider soft pornography, recently have managed to attract a cult following. For some, pink films represent a space within which sexuality can be expressed as an art form. This is the impression that can be obtained in discussions with Imaizumi, an actor in pink films. As a lead-in to the main interview, pink film actor Koichi Imaizumi made it a point to explain just what pink films are. Here, in summary, is how he defined them:

Pink films started being made in 1961. Three pink films are screened together as a set at movie theaters for a total of between sixty to ninety minutes. A few years ago there were five companies involved in the production of pink films, but today there are only three. Two of these companies faced financial difficulties and so started to produce pornographic films from around 1970. These films, called roman pornography, were different from pink films. Roman pornography films were produced with larger budgets and were filmed over a period of a week to ten days. Though the lengths of the roman pornographic films, or adult videos, are similar to those of pink films, with a larger budget the nature of the films is different. For one thing, adult videos are videotaped, not actually filmed; pink films use real film. Also, pink films have a script, though the voice track is recorded after the filming is completed because of the limited budget.

One major difference is that when filming there is only one take for each scene. Pink films are considered pornography, but the sex scenes are only simulated. In adult videos, which do have actual sex in them, the sexual organs are blurred over with a mosaic so they cannot be seen. In pink films, the mosaic is not used. But because Japanese law prohibits the showing of pubic hair and sex organs, of course pink films are filmed in a way so that none of this can be seen. This is done mainly because of budget constraints; there is not enough money to edit in the mosaic after the filming.

With the increase in popularity of the adult videos over the past few years, the popularity of pink films has dropped. --NOTES on the HISTORY of PORNOGRAPHY , via http://www.tranquileye.com/historyofporn/japanese_porn.html [Oct 2004]

Eros in Hell: Sex, Blood & Madness in Japanese Cinema - Jack Hunter

  1. Eros in Hell: Sex, Blood & Madness in Japanese Cinema - Jack Hunter [Amazon.com]
    An illustrated guide to Japanese exploitation cinema. Profusely illustrated with over 200 explicit and rare photographs, Eros in Hell comprises a unique guide to the most prolific, fascinating and controversial underground/ alternative cinema in the world. --Book Description

    This is a highly distressing book. For as much information as the reader discovers, the sense of lacking mounts, creating more questions than this book has means, or intent, to answer. It is best to think of Eros in Hell as a primer for the reader interested in getting a taste of extremism in Japanese cinema. The high points of the book include the chapter on Koji Wakamatsu and the "underground" films of Shinya Tsukamoto, Shojin Fukui, et. al. Meanwhile, the rest of the book founders under the weight of excessive footnotes¹, goofy interviews of Japanese filmmakers by Parisian photographer Romain Slocombe² and a pedantic chapter covering the minutia of Nagisa Oshima's AI NO CORRIDA (IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES).
    For readers with more than a passing interest in the Japanese New Wave Cinema, I recommend picking up David Desser's Eros plus Massacre (named after Yoshishige Yoshida's film). Hampered by its aggressively wide scope and passive acceptance of misogyny, Eros in Hell does a terrific job of stressing the need for a comprehensive look at the radical reaches of Japanese Cinema. (ISBN: 1871592933)
    ¹ All of the footnotes in Eros in Hell would work much better if integrated into the text.
    ² Slocombe is best known for his photographs of Asian girls in bandages and, apparently, he feels a need to bring up his fetish with everyone to whom he speaks. -- impossiblefunky for amazon.com [...]

  2. Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade - Andrew Grossman [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    The editor correctly bemoans the lack of materials that discuss both queer theory and Asian filmography. This anthology discusses the topic as it affects numerous Asian countries. However, the articles are throat-deep in academic babble. This book is strictly for semiotics majors and academics. It's a shame too because many gay and/or Asian film buffs would have enjoyed a more understandable book on the topic. Additionally, this book is a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality series. Usually, those writings are accessible to experts and laypeople. This was not the case here. Besides, the films discussed probably had extremely limited releases, thus Asians, gays, and especially Asian gays (or Asian-American gays) will have no idea about what the authors are analyzing so difficulty. Readers are better off watching "Farewell My Concubine" and "Fire" and coming to their own conclusions on the matter. --amazon.com fear. days later she calls in a massage after a long day's work, only to realize the provider is the same blind groper! too late: she's drugged and hauled off to an old warehouse where she is held captive. the blind man is a sculptor, who wants to create an art of touch, and she is his perfect model. the hook? well, she has to consent to a lot of groping. the rest is an astonishing blend of Hitchcock and Radley Metzger, with a completely audacious conclusion. the acting is passionate throughout -- the artist's speech to the girl disclosing his true intentions is rousing and creepy at the same time -- with many physical and psychological struggles punctuating the characters' gradual union of purpose. one of a kind. --drollere via amazon.com

    One of the most fascinatingly freakish of all the big screen adaptations of the works of Japanese mystery writer Edogawa Rampo is Moju, a.ka.The Blind Beast. This outrageous film from 1969 was directed by the criminally underrated Yasuzo Masumura, director of such powerful melodramas as Kisses (Kuchizuke, 1957), Giants and Toys (Kyojin To Gangu, 1958), the lesbian love-triangle Manji (1964), and Red Angel (Akai Tenshi, 1966). Masumura's early work and essays on film in the late 50s spurred a young Nagisa Oshima and his peers at Shochiku Studios to radically reconfigure the nation's traditional cinema, giving birth to the Japanese New Wave of the 60s in the process.

    Though the plot bears some similarity to John Fowles' powerful novel The Collector, published in 1963 and rather listlessly adapted for the big screen by William Wyler in 1965 with Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar as captor and captured, Moju is based on a rather grotesque tale by Rampo first serialised in the Asahi national newspaper between 1931 and 1932. --Jasper Sharp, http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/moju.shtml, accessed May 2004


    1. Wife To Be Sacrificed (1975) - Masaru Konuma [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      Queen of Japanese erotica Naomi Tani plays a wife who charges her husband with sexual battery. He escapes from the police and goes into hiding. Three years pass, she divorces him and tries to put the pieces of her life back in order when suddenly he returns. Obsessed with rage and hatred, he kidnaps her and brings her to a house in a remote wooded area. There he disciplines her vehemently, subjecting her to increasingly shocking forms of sexual torture, tetherings, suspensions and humiliations. Astonishingly, through the rage and lust, the pair develop a relationship that pushes the boundaries of lurid passions and perverse obsessions. --amazon.com

      'Wife' is one of the best examples of the Japanese Film Industry's notorious pink films made in 1974 by Nikkatsu Studios. Starring the Queen of Japanese SM Naomi Tani, 'Wife' is the story of an abducted woman who overpowers her abusive husband by succumbing to the pleasures of masochism. The film articulates a social commentary through the depiction of graphic SM scenes that fuction as a metaphor for gender relations in Japanese society. The underlying theme of the movie is to suggest that there is an impossibility of romantic love between japanese men and women and that sadism and masochism are possibly alternative forms of love than those of social obligation or the reani kekkon (Love marriages). The film asks us (well the japanese of 1974) to take a closer look at our realtionships to each other and roles within society which may be in itself the bigger of SM relationship than that of the personal one depicted in the pink film. Overall its a gruelling film to watch but Pasolini's SALO was never intended to be fun entertainment either. The amazon video tape reviewed here is a quality transfer from the original uncensored Japanese 35mm print which retains the crystalline cinematography and minimal soundtrack. The film is subtitled which is required for an artistic film with such a rare tension between cruelty and beauty.-- Gary W Needham, amazon.co.uk

    2. Ai No Corrida aka In the Realm of the Senses (1976) - Nagisa Oshima [Amazon US]
      Nagisa Oshima's sensational, 1976 film concerns a woman (Eiko Matsuda) whose obsessive sexual relationship with her husband (Tatsuya Fuji) crosses the line from passion into the territory of life and death. One of the most sexually explicit films ever to play in mainstream theaters (though it did run into legal trouble both in the U.S. and Japan), it has an air of palpable doom, suggesting that sex can be a doorway to suicide. Lest this sound like grunge-era noodling over dreams of self-destruction, be assured that the Kyoto-born Oshima (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) takes a somewhat formal, middle-aged perspective on the conjunction of various mysteries of existence. --Tom Keogh for amazon.com [...]

    3. Audition/Odishon (1999) - Takashi Miike [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
      Much of the controversy surrounding Takashi Miike's Audition centres on the disturbing nature of the later part of the film--understandable when you consider the imprint these admittedly horrific images leave on the viewer--but fails to note the intricate social satire of the rest. This is a film that offers insight into the changing culture of Japan and the generation gap between young and old. Shigeharu Aoyama is looking for an obedient and virtuous woman to love and asks, "Where are all the good girls?"--a comment that seals his fate. A fake audition is organised to find Aoyama a wife. Asami Yamazaki is introduced as the virtuous woman he is looking for, dressing for the majority of the film in white and behaving with the courtesy of an angel, especially when juxtaposed against the brash stupidity of the other girls at the audition. Although his friend takes an immediate "chemical" dislike to her, Aoyama begins a love affair to end all love affairs. But as Asami's history unfolds we see her pain and torture and slowly understand that the tortured in this instance holds the power to become the torturer. Aoyama is slowly drawn away from his white, metallic and homely environment into the vivid- red and dirty-dark environment of Asami's sadistic world.

      Audition can be viewed on a number of levels, with important feminist, social and human rights issues to be drawn from the story. However, the real power of this film is its descent into the subconscious, to a point where reality is blurred and the audience is unable to decide whether the disturbing images on screen are real or surreal. This refined, hard-hitting and essentially Japanese style of horror is ultimately much more powerful than anything offered by Hollywood. This is a film that will get under your skin and infect your consciousness with a blend of fearless gore and unimaginable torture. It is not for the faint-hearted. --Nikki Disney for amazon.co.uk

    4. Tetsuo: The Ironman (1988) -- Shinya Tsukamoto [DVD, Amazon US]
      Shinya Tsukamoto draws on the marriage of flesh and technology that inspires so much of David Cronenberg's work and then twists it into a manga-influenced cyberpunk vision. A man (Tomoroh Taguchi) awakens from a nightmare in which his body is helplessly fusing with the metal objects around him, only to find it happening to him in real life... or is it? Haunted by memories of a hit and run (eerily prophetic of Cronenberg's Crash), the man knows this ordeal could be a dream, a fantastic form of divine retribution, or perhaps technological mutation born of guilt and rage. Shot in bracing black and white on a small budget, Tsukamoto puts a demented conceptual twist on good old-fashioned stop-motion effects and simple wire work, giving his film the surreal quality of a waking dream with a psychosexual edge (resulting in the film's most disturbing scene). The story ultimately takes on an abstract quality enhanced by the grungy look and increasingly wild images as they take to the streets in a mad chase of technological speed demons. This first entry in his self-titled "Regular Sized Monster Series" is followed by a full-color sequel, Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer, which trades the muddy experimental atmosphere for a big-budget sheen but can't top the cybershock to the system this movie packs. --Sean Axmaker [...]

    5. Tokyo Decadence (1992) - Ryu Murakami [Amazon US]
      The fourth feature film written and directed by the Japanese novelist Ryu Murakami (Coin Locker Babies) revels in S&M episodes that seem to owe less to the Japanese tradition of the "pink film" than to such Euro art-bondage movies as La Maîtresse (France, 1976) and A Woman in Flames (West Germany, 1983). Visually, the sequences stop well short of hard core, and emotionally they are amorphous, too, even less unsettling than standard porno fare. What ultimately saps the movie's strength is its schematic approach to character. The loosely structured picture tags along after a timid young woman named Ai (Miho Nikaido), a recent college graduate who has found work in the big city as a hooker specializing in low-impact bondage. Ai seems less a character than a convenient object for Murakami's flip sense of high-tech alienation. (She claims to have learned only one thing in life: "That I have no talent of any kind.") The nonstick surfaces of her daily life, like her personality, are almost completely without distinguishing features; the only gestures she makes toward taking control are some superstitious rituals prescribed by a sidewalk fortuneteller. Ai herself is such a hazy presence that nothing that happens to her stays with us. --David Chute [...]

    6. Muscle (1988) - Hisayasu Sato [Amazon US]
      A seemingly mild-mannered editor of a muscle magazine finds his sexual desires ignited when he becomes involved in an S&M relationship with a muscular bodybuilder in this sexually explicit, extremely controversial drama. For, during their lovemaking, he is unable to control his pleasure/pain and in a fit of sexual intensity, cuts off his lover's arm. He is sent to prison, is released and (with the detached arm in formaldehyde) searches the dark city streets for his now one-armed object of affection. A homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film is quite strange and sexy. (Japanese w/ subtitles) --amazon.com

    7. The Bedroom (1992) - Hisayasu Sato[Amazon US]
      Director Hisayasu Sato's eclectic study of subcultures: fetishism, drug use, prostitution and pornography. Both sensual and unsettling, "The Bedroom" paints a nightmare landscape that is strangely attractive. Kyoko is a member of a club called The Bedroom where all the girls use Hallusion, a highly hallucinatory drug, and then let men do whatever they want to them. One by one, the women in the club are being killed and mutilated. Soon, Kyoko begins to suspect her lover, Kei, of being the murderer. But the truth proves to be far more disturbing. This stylish example of Japanese "Pink Cinema" co-stars cannibal murderer Issei Sagawa, who shot and partially ate his Dutch girlfriend in Paris in 1981. Issei Sagawa, Kiyomi Ito, Kyoko Nakamura, Momori Asano, Takeshi Ito; Dir: Hisayasu Sato. Includes production stills and background information on the Pink Cinema movement and director Hisayasu. --amazon.com

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