Yasuzô Masumura – Manji (1964)



A dutiful, unhappy lawyer’s wife falls in love with a young, mysterious woman she encounters at an art class. Soon their affair involves her husband and the young woman’s impotent lover and together the four slowly descent into a web of tangled passions.

Masumura was the first Japanese student to attend Italy’s prestigious Centro film school, whose alumni include the likes of Michaelangelo Antonioni, Liliana Cavani and Dino de Laurentiis. Filmed in glorious scope, Masumura fills his screen with simple, yet effective compositions. The direction is even, with his cast of players, most of whom have a long association with the director, embodying their roles wonderfully, exuding the passion and turbulence caused by their tangled affair. The exposition is well paced, as twists in the plot emerge with each meeting. The melodrama is high in true Japanese fashion, as pacts and allegiances shift the balance of power throughout the picture. While able to capture the sensuality of his subjects, Masumura does so without excessive voyeurism or blatant sexuality. The result is an exquisite photoplay, rich in the pitfalls of human desire, with interesting and dire unexpected. Continue reading

Yasuzo Masumura – Ongaku aka The Music (1972)


Masumura has been one of the most intersting directors for many of us Japanese cinema buffs. His “Blind Beasts” is a real classic and a disturbing film, almost an archetype of movies dealing with dark sexual passions, abductions and growing affection to an abuser.

Masumura’s much less known film “The Music” also deals with dark passions, but from a more pathological point of view. Our main character is Reiko, who has problems enjoying sex with her lover and who is also not able to hear music when it’s played on the radio. A psychiatrists tries to cure her and finds out a lot about her past. Reiko’s passions, fears and experiences are presented in drastic, exciting pictures and metaphors (a big, scary pair of scissors appears again and again ready to cut off legs and maybe other important part from the body titles), combined with a very haunting score. The characters act wild and breathless, you can almost smell their feelings.
Even more interesting: The film is based on a novel by the famous writer Mishima Yukio, who wrote a lot of exciting books but who is also well known for his ritual act of public suicide in 1970 – 40 years ago.

Totorochi< Continue reading

Kenji Misumi & Yasuzo Masumura & Yoshio Inoue – Hanzo the Razor trilogy (1972 – 1974)



Welcome to the deranged world of Hanzo the Razor, a weird blend of swordplay and sexploitation. The first Hanzo movie, Sword of Justice, came out a year after Shaft and Dirty Harry and fuses the influence of both: stout and surly Hanzo (Shintaro Katsu), a rebellious yet obsessively moral samurai, is also enormously well-endowed and provides almost unbearable pleasure to the women he “interrogates”–that is to say, rapes in the name of the law. Hanzo also tortures and blackmails without qualm as he slices through crime, uncovering corruption at higher levels in each progressive film. In Sword of Justice he overturns his own craven superiors; in The Snare, he breaks into a temple used by local magistrates for the sadistic torture of young girls; in Who’s Got the Gold, the shogunate treasury is being looted by its own officials–had there been a fourth film, Hanzo would probably have confronted the shogun himself. But while the movies wallow in Hanzo’s ruthless treatment of criminals and women, it also ogles the torture Hanzo inflicts upon himself! Sword of Justice will knock you sideways as you struggle to balance Hanzo’s puritanical code with his masochism and brutality (as well as the funky ’70s soundtrack). The Snare and Who’s Got the Gold?, disappointingly repeat many of the same routines (in particular, the “net torture” of female suspects). Continue reading