Monday, February 16, 2009

Pinku Eiga

This year's Indiefest had two programs titled I Am Curious (Pink): The Second Wave of Japanese Sex Cinema | 1986-present.

Each program consisted of two one-hour "pinku eiga" films from Japan. Pinku eiga translates to "pink film" - what would be called softcore porn in the US.

Quoting from the program guide, since the early 60s, the Japanese film industry has nurtured a bizarre sub-world of low-budget soft-core porn known as ‘pinku’. These films routinely belie their commercial raison d’etre with a wild imagination that we only wish colored stateside porn, and for the last 40 years, legions of young Japanese filmmakers have been given a chance to earn their directing chops within this context.

The films were courtesy of a company that sells pink film DVDs in the US. provided the four films for Indiefest. I assume the films are subtitled although dialog is not the strong point of the four films I saw. Actually, the dialog and production standards are much higher than US porn. Of course, I rarely view US porn so I don't have much of reference point.

One of the representatives mentioned that these films were always shot on film, had theatrical releases and took about 3 weeks to complete from first shot to final edited version. He mentioned that many well known and legitimate Japanese directors got their start in pinku eiga. He mentioned at both screenings that Yojiro Takita, director of Departures, got his start in the pinku eiga in the 1980's. Departures was nominated for an Oscar this year in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Given that these films were turned around in three weeks, it's easy to see how directors can receive invaluable training in a year or two of cranking out pink films.

Well known for its fetish culture and bukkake (so I read), I would think Japanese pornography laws would be lax but the opposite is true. Frontal nudity is outlawed and all the sex scenes are simulated. In one film, there was a rather impressive ejaculation scene but you only saw the "ejaculate" not the "ejaculation."

The pink films can be grouped into two broad categories - dramas and comedies for lack of better terms. Dramas explore the psychology of sexuality. The two dramas I saw dealt with women with masochistic tendencies and how it affected their lives. These films were less compelling for me. How many women are there that resort to bondage and humiliation as an existential coping mechanism or because they have assumed their dead sister's identity?

The comedies were much more engaging because the situations were absurd to start with. My favorite of the four pink films was S+M Hunter. This film is definitely not for those with thin skins; Catholics, gays, women and people victimized by the Nazis can find something to be offended by.

The plot is worth recounting. A man goes to a BDSM dungeon. The dungeon host gives him the grand tour and the patron select a masochist; not just any masochist but a woman dressed like a Catholic nun who will "absolve all his sins." The patron gives her the whip with a particular gusto; lashing into her skin until she has red welts and eventually collapses. The host insightfully notes that the patron is neither sadist nor masochist but has "a different kind of perversion." The man is clearly distraught so the host calls in the S+M Hunter to properly evaluate the man's perversion. The S+M Hunter is dressed like a Catholic priest with an eyepatch. I think S+M Hunter is patterned after Father Merrin in the The Exorcist.

S+M Hunter

In addition, he carries coiled rope on his belt that he twirls around like Indiana Jones. So skilled is S+M Hunter that he can twirl his rope, bind a woman, remove their clothes and bring his "parishoner" to ecstasy by flicking the rope.

After a few questions, it is revealed what the patron's true perversion is - he is gay. Not only that but his lover was kidnapped by The Bombers, an all girl gang, and is being gang raped by them. The four of them (S+M Hunter, nun, BDSM dungeon master and gay man) journey to the Bombers' sex hideout to rescue the enslaved man.

S+M Hunter quickly tames the Bombers with his ropes of pleasure and returns the slave to his paramour. What he didn't count on was that the Bombers new pledge is the woman who took S+M Hunter's eye. Not only that but when she suits up for the final battle, she inexplicably puts on a Nazi uniform (SS or Gestapo I think).

I won't give away the ending so you will have a reason to buy the DVD from ($19.99). If this film isn't a masterpiece in the genre, there is no justice in the world.

I should also that the director employed a leitmotif whenever S+M Hunter prepared for "battle." It was a very heroic sounding coda; vaguely evocative of Sergio Leone films and Carmina Burana.

Not only that but the film was popular enough to make a prequel - S+M Hunter Begins: The Beginning of the Legend.

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