Disturbing even by Angel Guts standards, which of course is Takashi Ishii's series of rape-themed Japanese pink films (1978-1994). It's not actually evil, but it's creepy and wrong and it includes one story point that I want to say should never be used in a movie. Theoretically this is silly of me. Of course there will be artistically justified ways of handling this material, but... well, see what you think.
The dodgy bit is a woman (Jun Izumi) whose heart you can win by raping her. At the start of the scene, it's rape. At the end of the scene, they're making arrangements for their next date. Eh? No. No, no no. I'm not saying it's impossible for human beings to behave like that, since after all there people are basically capable of anything and the world is full of scary weirdos, but I have trouble with the presence of a "women enjoy being raped" message in a movie with pornographic content. What's more, this pattern is replicated later on a smaller scale when Izumi starts being nice to a stalker who carries around her photoshoot in a bondage porn mag and has been seen wanking and fantasising over it.
The good news is that the film's tone nearly justifies this. It's typical Takashi Ishii, which means that the film is all about desperately broken and scary behaviour, with all the men especially being perverts, scum, filth, creepy stalkers and/or rapist killers. Izumi has frightening issues. The messages of this film include:
(a) Men who consume pornography are creepy loners you wouldn't touch with a disinfected barge pole, who fantasise about rape and possibly killing. Talk about targeting your audience.
(b) If someone rapes you, it would be a mistake to choose him as a boyfriend.
(c) Assumptions based on pornography will be wrong.
(d) Anyone can be sexually confused and self-destructive, including women. This will mean blurring lines that will mess with your head, including in ways that even the most perverted among you won't have thought of. Trust me, you haven't. You really haven't. The main one is the way in which Izumi's late sexual consummation with her kotatsu was foreshadowed earlier in the film by distasteful under-the-kotatsu shots of both men and women enjoying lonely self-pleasure. NOTE: a kotatsu is a low table with a built-in heater and a duvet spread on top, which is the world's greatest thing in winter and I wanted to bring mine back to England with me. It had never though occurred to me to have sex with one.
(e) masturbation can be more imaginative than you'd think.
Izumi is this film's Nami Tsuchiya, of course. She gets tricked into filling in for a co-worker's part-time job, which she discovers too late involves rope, nudity and a cameraman. The bit I don't understand is why she never battered to death the girl who imposed upon her to turn up to this. However it would seem that she has a strong sexual drive, despite not having a boyfriend, and is capable of being unpredictable in how she releases this. (Note the understatement.) She's capable of what a chauvinist would call inconsistent behaviour and what normal people would call being human.
Meanwhile Masahiko Abe is a neighbour who doesn't have a job and who peeps on female neighbours who don't draw their curtains when indulging in exotic nude self-pleasure. Uh-huh. In any other film, my bullshit detector would be screaming. In Ishii-world, this feels like yet another manifestation of weird scary people. However don't think for a moment that the film is just those two... they're only the tip of the deviant iceberg.
The direction includes some nice touches. I noticed his shots of lonely people running on their own after dark, while there are metaphorical or ironic scenes like a certain character's death among shop window mannequin body parts. I thought he did a good job, although he does seem unusually interested in groin shots.
It gets violent. There are killings, rapes and one scene with the two together (in a bad order). It's not always easy to tell whether a rape was indeed rape, which is insanely disturbing. There's even a sweet moment at the end between two people who absolutely shouldn't be having any kind of sweet moment whatsoever... followed of course by something brutal and horrible which immediately undoes it. Have you ever wanted to see something involving dirty, creepy masturbation and people getting killed in the rain? If so, stay away from me. No, um, I mean, "watch this film". This is the most disturbing Japanese movie I've yet seen, including Angel Guts and Guinea Pig
. The unsettling bit is the tone. It's not cartoonish. It's not wank material. Instead it's Takashi Ishii being deadly serious and going to scary psychological places.
In one sense, I'd almost call this the most successful Ishii film I've seen to date. He's usually freezing cold and doesn't make much emotional connection with the audience, but here he got a response all right. It's in no way a pleasant response, but it's a strong one.