Nikkatsu's "Roman Porno"

 

Co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles

 

 

One of Japan’s legacy film studios, Nikkatsu might look like a young gal, but this year she just turned 100!   At the dawn of the Sixties, Nikkatsu was riding high: they had the matinee idol thing down, minted taut action films and could dictate what fashion trends the cool kids would be wearing.  But, by the Sixties’ end, it was a different story: politics and public tastes shifted, and to save itself from financial ruin, Nikkatsu put all bets on “pink”, transforming into a high-brow softcore film factory.  From the inception of the “Roman Porno” line of films, Nikkatsu once again became a hit-making machine, and it’s no secret why: the technical mastery of these productions is easily evident, and the gamble of using young visionary directors paid off in spades.  The sum of these visually arresting “Roman Pornos” is much, much more than just the skin on display, as these films often expose a world closer to the one their original Japanese audiences found just outside their theater doors, than what the other major studios were cranking out at the time.  All four films in this series are presented in 35mm, from archival prints flown in straight from Japan!

  

Watch the trailer for “Nikkatsu’s ‘Roman Porno’ “!

Twisted Path of Love (aka Lovers Are Wet)

Softcore coming-of-age trippiness!
loversarewet_website
1/27/2013 - 7PM
Co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles

A beautifully shot Japanese softcore turn at the seishun eiga (coming-of-age film), Tatsumi Kumashiro’s Twisted Path of Love plays like Mike Nichols’ The Graduate soaked in a vat of shochu. It’s not clear where the young drifter Katsu has been for the last couple of years, but he’s returned home, gotten a job at the local porn theater and is insisting to everyone who recognizes him that he is NOT Katsu. With implications he’s either been a radical leftist agitator or a just petty crook, now he acts like another slacker punk in a dead-end town — one whose impulses drive him to different women like a sex-starved dog. Having directed many of Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” ‘70s softcore films, Kumashiro often sharply diverged from expected norms, producing unexpectedly wild imagery; here, with many free-floating dreamy non-linear sequences, his statement about the feeling of disenchantment and social disconnect amongst Japanese youth reaches its zenith. At a brisk 76 minutes, this is one whip-crack trippy ride.
Dir. Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1973, 35mm, 76 min.

Watch the trailer for “Lovers Are Wet”!

Following Desire (aka Ichijo's Wet Lust)

Real-life stripper in biopic tussle!
followingdesire_website
1/20/2013 - 6:45PM
Co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles

In an amazing move similar to casting the real-life Evel Knievel in Viva Knievel!, in 1972 the Nikkatsu studio cast real-life stripper Ichijo Sayuri as herself in a sleazy, cock-eyed Japanese variation of All About Eve. Busty, proud and with a penchant for using hot candle wax in her stage show, legendary stripper Ichijo decides to throw in the towel after being brought up on yet another spate of obscenity charges. Desperate to seize the throne is Sayuri’s young, hot-blooded rival Harumi, who doesn’t have the same assets or skills but that’s not about to stop her — even if the cops lock her up every time she drops her kit on stage. Clearly designed as a quick cash-in on Sayuri’s popularity, director Tatsumi Kumashiro converts this skin flick into a comment on obscenity laws in Japan. Coming two years after Sayuri’s time in jail, the meticulous recreation of her infamous striptease show becomes an act of free speech protest — while also jacking up your pulse more than a glass of snake blood ever could.
Dir. Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1972, 35mm, 70 min.

Watch the trailer for “Ichijo’s Wet Lust”!

Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Delivers the grubby goods!
angelguts_website
1/13/2013 - 9PM
Co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles

Based on future “erotic noir” filmmaker Takashi Ishii’s manga of the same name, this second entry in Nikkatsu’s “Angel Guts” franchise takes a somewhat more starkly serious — although no less skeezy(!) — look at the porno trade than some of its ‘70s contemporaries. Desensitized to sex and burnt out by the grind of publishing a skin rag, Tetsuro becomes obsessed with a women he sees in an underground stag film — and like a sleazoid Sam Spade, makes it his mission to search the scum underground and find her before it’s too late. Not a Guinea Pig-style torture flick like its unfortunate title implies, Chusei Sone’s film instead delivers a neon- and rain-soaked film noir, where the hero is emasculated and the dame is too far gone. With a Sam Fuller-like gritty surface, and a penchant for experimentalism and abstraction that zaps you with emotional subtext, Sone delivers the grubby goods.
Dir. Chusei Sone, 1979, 35mm, 79 min.

Watch the trailer for “Angel Guts: Red Classroom”!

A Woman With Red Hair

Intense blue-collar Japanese eroticism!
womanwithredhair_website
1/6/2013 - 7PM
Co-presented by The Japan Foundation, Los Angeles

One of ‘70s Japanese cinema’s most profoundly disturbing reflections of life on the edge of poverty — and one of its most sexually controversial. Two roughneck day-laborers who share everything (including the women they rape) stumble upon a beautiful gal with red hair waiting on the side of the road in a rain storm. It’s a no-brainer that they’d pick her up, but when Kenzo and the mysterious redhead start an intense sexual relationship, the equation changes. Shot against torrents of rain, director Tatsumi Kumashiro creates a thick atmosphere of desperation that reveals the emptiness of the characters’ lives. Judged from a Western perspective, the men are rapists and misogynists, but these portraits are anything but a celebration. Set in the Kansai region — a choice of location unfamiliar for Westerners, but one all the more shocking to its original audience — The Woman With Red Hair betrays the polished “happy” film version of Tokyo that you’d see in a Toho production, instead giving you a grimy blue collar world a lot like what the Japanese would’ve seen just outside their theater doors. Heavy-duty stuff.
Dir. Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1979, 35mm, 73 min.

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “A Woman With Red Hair”!

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