Tatsumi Kumashiro – Akasen tamanoi: Nukeraremasu AKA Street of Joy (1974)

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It’s the evening before the day all brothels must be shut-down, according to the new law, in 1958. At the Kofukuya’s (literally, the house that sells happiness), five prostitutes decide to celebrate the day. Erotism, drama, and comedy mix as each hour, and a different event passes, in which all the women’s stories come to the surface. (IMDb)

With humor and tenderness, this film explores the lives of four Japanese prostitutes in the time just before that lifestyle was outlawed in 1958. All four take some pride in their work, though one of them responds to aging with a suicide gesture. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi Continue reading

Akio Jissôji – Mujô AKA This Transient Life (1970)

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One of the recurrent themes of the Art Theatre Guild (ATG)’s films of the 60s and early 70s was incest. In Funeral Procession of Roses (Bara No Soretsu, 1968) Toshio Matsumoto told a modern version of the Oedipus tale, transplanting the story into the gay subculture of present-day Tokyo. The hero of Susumu Hani’s The Inferno of First Love (Hatsukoi Jigokuhen, 1968) suffers from the sexual abuse of his stepfather. In Yoshishige Yoshida’s Heroic Purgatory (Rengoku Eroica, 1970) a young girl who creeps into the life of a scientist and his wife pretending to be their daughter seduces her alleged father. The family head in Nagisa Oshima’s masterful critique of the patriarchic family, The Ceremony (Gishiki, 1971), rapes his son’s bride. In Masahiro Shinoda’s Himiko (1974) the prehistoric shaman empress of Japan falls in love with her brother and is killed by ruthless elders who can no longer exercise control over her. In Kazuo Kuroki’s Preparations for the Festival (Matsuri No Junbi, 1975) the disabled Kikuo is sexually comforted by his mother, and in Shuji Terayama’s Pastoral: To Die in the Country (Den’en Ni Shisu, 1974), the story of a boy who tries to escape his mother, incest is omnipresent. Continue reading

Yoshishige Yoshida – Rengoku eroica AKA Heroic Purgatory (1970)

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Little exists, critically speaking, on the subject of Yoshishige Yoshida’s “Heroic Purgatory”. It is a singular experience in that it has never been the subject of much acclaim or criticism. Film sites boast very few, if any, reviews. You will not find its name amongst the more famous Japanese cinematic works. Once one has seen the film, that is all there is. There is no chance to read a critical evaluation and put the pieces together with the help of a more wise, trusted and noted critic. The film extrapolates no farther than itself and its viewer. Continue reading

Takashi Miike – Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha (1999)

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Handed a tedious script about a turf war in Shinjuku’s Kabuki-cho entertainment district (a maverick Chinese gang pulls a robbery which upsets organised crime; a care-worn cop lumbers towards a showdown with the troublemakers), Miike threw away half of it and used the rest as a springboard to amazing inventions. The exposition scenes are boiled down to an entire reel of ‘abstract’ action – a cataclysmic restaurant ambush, a gay man killed while sodomising a kid, the world’s longest line of coke, a homo-erotic knife-throwing act in a girlie bar – while the unrevealable ending is turned into the ultimate blast. In between, Miike offers a series of electrifyingly sad vignettes of death, failure and loss, including what must be the most disturbing stoned murder scene the genre has ever known. A future classic. (Time Out Film Guide) Continue reading

Yoshishige Yoshida – Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu AKA Eros Plus Massacre (1969)

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Synopsis:
In the 20’s, the anarchist revolutionary Sakae Osugi is financially supported by his wife, journalist Itsuko Masaoka. He spends his time doing nothing but philosophizing about political systems and free love and visiting with his lovers Yasuko and the earlier feminist Noe Ito. He conveniently defends three principles for a relationship between a man and a woman: they should be financially independent (despite the fact that he is not); they should live in different places; and they should be free to have intercourse with other partners. In 1969, twenty year-old student, Eiko Sokuta, has an active sexual life, having sex with different men. Her friend, Wada, is obsessed with fire and they usually play weird games using a camera while they read about Osugi and Ito. Continue reading