You'll remember I've often been surprised (in a good way) by Japan's pink films. They're pornography, yes, but at their best they're the spiritual descendants of the old Nikkatsu Roman Porno films and they give more artistic freedom to their directors than any other genre. This is one of those. What's more, it's sufficiently good that it became a cult hit and is one of the few pink films to break out of its genre and get recognised internationally.
Well, in a minor way, at least. Jonathan Ross talked about it on his TV show and it played the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. That's not exactly Battle Royale, but it's astonishing for a pink film.
What surprises me in hindsight about it is the fact that it isn't wacky. A plot synopsis would make it sound eye-bulgingly insane, but in fact it's not really trying to be. It's no Crazy Lips
or The Happiness of the Katakuris
. It's just itself, quietly getting on with its chosen business of delivering softcore porn and a vaguely hallucinogenic plot. Sachiko Hanai (Emi Kuroda) is a prostitute whose clients enjoy fantasy role-play. She's also an airhead who talks like a squeaky toy and will react to a man getting shot to death in front of her by taking a picture of the perpetrator with her mobile phone. Unsurprisingly this gets her a bullet in the forehead. The surprising bit is that this doesn't kill her, but instead makes her super-intelligent when she decides to stick a pencil inside her own forehead and try to... um, poke the bullet deeper? You know, as you do. Well, I suppose there was only one direction for her common sense to go.
That's the starting point of the plot, which could also be described as the Japanese pink equivalent of Dr Strangelove. While Sachiko's continuing her exploits in the oldest profession, there's a trigger-happy Korean spy looking for her and the oddest Macguffin you've ever seen. It's the cloned finger of President George W. Bush and you can imagine it as looking like a red dog's penis in a lipstick case, which can fly, sexually molest women and trigger nuclear armageddon. It displays a similar level of sentience to the original (i.e. some), who furthermore is in this movie too. (I wonder if he knows?) Sometimes he's merely a character played by a Japanese dude who's wearing a cut-out paper mask, but there's also a scene edited together from stock footage in which he's being played by himself.
Bush sounds cleverer in Japanese, you'll be glad to know. Either the guy's a cunning linguist, or else we're supposed to assume he's being dubbed as usual on Japanese TV.
How is it as porn? Answer: not bad. We never see a penis, but we not infrequently see Sachiko getting sprayed with what looks like real semen. Maybe hardcore footage also exists? There's penetration, fellatio, cunnilingus and a boob job, which all seems convincing enough even if we never get the camera angles to confirm whether or not it's simulated. Incidentally the first release of this film was called Horny Home Tutor: Teacher's Love Juice and the internationally distributed cut is the director's expanded version. Emi Kuroda doesn't have huge breasts, incidentally, but they're okay. However on the downside, there's a rape. That's a disturbing thing you'll sometimes get in Japanese porn, even if this particular film's capable of being watched as a proper movie and the rapist is clearly being flagged as a bad guy because he's also a killer.
The editing's a bit odd, although this is presumably to some extent deliberate. Like I said, this film's weird. Its style is also capable of being experimental, including a downright abstract bit after the end credits, plus another bit earlier where an international nuclear crisis gets represented by plastic figures being wiggled in front of a photo. Best of all though is a shoot-out so ridiculous that it's surreal art, like Warriors of the Deep except surely on purpose. Two gunmen walk up to a distance of about ten feet from their target. One of them gets shot. The other watches his colleague fall over dead, turns back to look at the person who shot him and eventually (after about ten seconds of this) raises his gun to return fire. The shooting now resumes.
The film's message is unsettling if you make the mistake of thinking about it, though. Our dimwit porn-star heroine gets shot in the head and as a result becomes super-intelligent, but this has little effect on her offering herself sexually to strangers and instead the upshot is that she ends up destroying the world. She then gets the bullet out of her head and becomes a bimbo again. Happy Sachiko. Nukes fall.
Will they take the mega-tasteless sex option? No, they don't. That's one thing to be thankful for. As I said, this is a surprisingly sober film given its lurid content. There are moments of unexpected characterisation like the ruthless killer spy masturbating in the dark to the pictures on a mobile phone. Sachiko will also do bizarre about-turns, e.g. the sugar in her coffee. Kuroda isn't much of an actress, but she's not bad enough to torpedo the film and it sort of works. She's convincing at taking her clothes off, anyway. At the end of the day, this is still straight-to-DVD pornography... but it's also a lot better than a lot of regular straight-to-DVD films, watchable on a non-porn level and flamboyantly surreal in its own deadpan way. This is why the world should respect Japanese pink films.