Kazuki KitamuraYozaburo ItoKyoko HayamiHarumi Inoue
Freeze Me
Medium: film
Year: 2000
Writer/director: Takashi Ishii
Keywords: boobs, yakuza
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Harumi Inoue, Shingo Tsurumi, Kazuki Kitamura, Shunsuke Matsuoka, Daisuke Iijima, Yozaburo Ito, Ken Nakayama, Kyoko Muramatsu, Satsuki Natsukawa, Takeko Kubota, Kyoko Hayami, Naoto Takenaka
Format: 101 minutes
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266555/
Website category: J-sleaze
Review date: 25 November 2010
It's a Japanese rape film.
No, come back! It's not what it sounds like!
The rape/revenge genre is international. What's different about Japan is that it has quite a lot of rape in its pornography, not to mention a "don't rock the boat" culture in which women were traditionally expected to stay at home and bear children. Thus the stereotypical pink rape film would apparently have the subtextual message that the rape victim is being punished for un-ladylike behaviour (e.g. having a job instead of a husband, living alone in the city) and afterwards would usually become passive with shame. That's if you don't count the ones who found the experience sexually liberating.
Or so I've heard, anyway. Give me time. I can't watch everything at once.
This movie is like a cross-pollination of the traditional pink rape film and the Western rape/revenge genre. Harumi Inoue is a nice girl with a good job and a fiance. Something bad happened to her five years ago, but she doesn't let herself brood about it. She's getting on with her life. She's normal.
However one day an arrogant young man (Shingo Tsurumi) turns up at her apartment and forces his way inside. She's terrified, but he's chatting to her as if they're old friends and even seems to be expecting her to cook for him and let him come to stay. Sometimes he also hits and kicks her. However the best bit is that Tsurumi's invited his old friends around to Inoue's apartment for an anniversary get-together. Yes, it's going to be a rape reunion for Inoue and the three men who gang-raped her five years ago, filmed it and sold it as a video. They haven't arrived yet and for the time being it's only Tsurumi staying at Inoue's flat, but even so it doesn't take him long to completely destroy Inoue's life.
Firstly, Tsurumi's a dick. You might think this goes without saying, but what makes him loathsome above and beyond the call of duty is what a swaggering cock he is. He's horrible on every level. He doesn't just rape Inoue, but finds petty humiliations for her in the eyes of her neighbours, her fiance and the people at her work. He's yakuza, needless to say. Meanwhile Inoue doesn't freak out or turn into Psycho Bitch, but instead tries to go on with her life without letting anyone know that she's being beaten and raped by someone who's forced his way into her home. She phones to say she's off sick, but will be coming in tomorrow.
It's ghastly, but it's real. Every time you think the film's about to live up to its genre, it doesn't. Inoue doesn't behave like an exploitation film heroine. She's normal. She's trying to stop her life from crashing down, while it's remarkable how slow she is to turn to violence and how incompetent she is when she does. Tsurumi can go to sleep in her apartment and she'll just sit there and watch him. He wakes up the next day and starts hitting her again. Meanwhile her chosen weapon on deciding to act is one of the last things you'd choose even to use on a little old lady, let alone a violent gangster who's bigger and stronger than you.
Then there's the fact that the film's all about her psychology. She doesn't turn into Uma Thurman. Even after killing two ex-rapists, she doesn't try to finish off the third but instead moves house, finds a shitty anonymous job and tries to disappear. Furthermore the rapist-killing is only Act Two. There's still a third act to come after that, which I hadn't been expecting at all, but is all about what all this has been doing to her.
There's a lot I could say about Inoue's character, but I'll restrain myself because her character development is the film's real plot. Suffice to say that she goes a bit weird. The title refers to the big freezers she keeps buying, incidentally, as an imaginative solution to the problem of disposing of the corpses.
As for the film itself, it both is and isn't exploitation. It's a proper film with far more subtlety and realism than extreme cinema like I Spit on Your Grave. It's more akin in tone to something like Jodie Foster's The Accused, except that I think it's better and more disturbing. It also avoids graphic rape scenes, unlike the likes of Irreversible. Takashi Ishii has made a mature film that keeps avoiding the sleazy option... but at the same time, there's still an awful lot of nudity and he's cast an actress with big breasts and a great body. A lot happens in the shower, for instance. You'd have to be broken inside to see this as pornography, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to look at.
What else has Harumi Inoue been in? Incidentally she's an actress, not an Adult Video star. Hmmm... most recently, she's done A Night in Nude: Salvation (also directed by Takashi Ishii) and Detective Story (directed by Takashi Miike). I'll be watching the Miike one, at least.
Oh, and Ishii's best-known film, it would seem, is Gonin. I'm guessing that's partly because it's a gangster film starring Takeshi Kitano.
This isn't a cheerful film, but it's also not a gruelling slog. Inoue never goes catatonic. She's always moving on with things, albeit not always in a healthy direction, and there's plenty of satisfaction to be had in waiting for these unbelievably vile rapists to push their luck too far. The film's portrayal of Inoue is going to push away a lot of people who disagree with her actions, e.g. not going straight to the police five years ago, to give the most obvious example, but if you think there aren't such women then let me be the first to welcome you to planet Earth. Besides, Inoue is no doormat. She doesn't do all the stereotypical Movie Rape Victim things. I won't pretend that she doesn't end up in some horrifying psychological places, but it's not as if she chose to go there. There's a suggestion that she might have committed suicide at the end, incidentally, but I'd put it no more strongly than that.
This film is shocking, brutal and has lots of nudity, but it's not sleazy. I thought it had a lot of weight, actually.