Monday, August 18, 2008

Thinking pink

WARNING: This post includes images and text that may offend more sensitive readers.

Still there? Ah, good, because it's time to post some information about the next theatrical event we're involved with, a smaller project than the Nikkatsu Action series, but one that's bound to raise a few more eyebrows.

In conjunction with Austin's terrific Fantastic Fest—where we debuted Nikkatsu Action last year, and launched Mark Schilling's companion book—we're going to be co-presenting four classic films from the uniquely Japanese genre of pinku eiga (softcore sex films), two of them shown for the first time ever with English subtitles.

The series is called Behind the Pink Curtain, and is being co-organized by Jasper Sharp, who will officially launch his book of the same name (published, like the Schilling book, by Harvey Fenton and FAB Press) at the event in mid-September.

I should make it clear that we're not nearly as deeply involved with this particular retro as we were with Nikkatsu Action. It was originally conceived as a larger series, and one that would screen in other cities like Montreal and New York, but circumstances transpired that prevented those other screenings from happening this year. It's possible that if the retro goes over well in Austin, we'll be able to take the films, and maybe even some additional ones, around on a small theatrical tour, but I'm not counting on it. It was a challenge to get North American cinematheques to play the mostly unknown titles in the Nikkatsu Action retro; I can imagine how difficult it would be to convince them to take on four completely unknown films in a misunderstood genre that most Westerns assume always involves rape and bondage!

So in the end, although this event was scaled down from its original ambitions, I'm happy with the four films we selected and think that they're really going to blow the minds of the audiences who see them. The series will screen in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema South Lamar from September 22nd - 24th (the festival runs from 9/18-25). Here's a brief rundown of the films.

Blue Film Woman (1969)
Directed by Kan Mukai. A girl avenges her mother's death and family's disgrace by becoming a high class call girl who blackmails her nemesis with a secretly shot film of their encounter. A highly stylized wash of color, wild camera angles and sheer '60s style. (Presented in a brand-new 35mm print)

Gushing Prayer: A 15-Year-Old Prostitute (1971)
Directed by Masao Adachi. A young woman, already a jaded sexual veteran, embarks on an odyssey of self-discovery to find out the true reasons for her dissatisfaction and total desensitization. This parable is told in a jagged avant-garde style that must have baffled the target audience of businessmen seeking cheap thrills on their lunch hours. (Presented in a brand-new 35mm print)

Mukai and Adachi are two major pioneers in the world of pink cinema, whose work in the 60s has yet to be discovered in the West. Jasper & I are hoping that these screenings—the first time these new prints will be screened
anywhere, by the way—will fix that. Adachi was a frequent collaborator with and screenwriter for better-known filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu, and Gushing Prayer was his final pink film before he dove head-first into more political and confrontational topics, like a stopover in the Middle East on the way back to Japan from Europe that resulted in the agit-prop documentary film The Red Army / PFLP: Declaration of World War, a sympathetic profile of the PLO. Mukai was most of an apolitical experimentalist, if the psychedelic Blue Film Woman is any indication, and both movies are true rarities that we hope will gain greater exposure after their Austin premieres.

S&M Hunter (1986)
Directed by Shuji Kataoka. An exercise in manga-style outrageousness that is guaranteed to offend everybody. The black clad S&M Roper is a kind of bondage super hero who has a supernatural genius for tying women up in configurations that leave them helplessly aroused. When the all girl gang, The Bombers, kidnap a man for their personal sex toy, S&M Hunter accepts a mission to infiltrate The Bombers' hideout and show them the ropes. (Digital projection)

A Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn (2003)
Directed by Daisuke Goto. In the Japanese countryside, a young widow, Noriko, lives with her senile father-in-law, Shu, on a farm. He believes his favorite cow is still alive. Noriko pretends to be the cow and lets him milk her every day - a satisfying arrangement for both. Shu's daughter Mitsuko discovers this strange relationship and tries to end it. A very strange and kinky modern pink film from genre superstar Goto. (Digital projection)

These latter two films are more contemporary, providing a contrast with the period feel of the Mukai and Adachi films. The truly deranged and hilarious S&M Hunter comes from the 80s, arguably both the high- (in terms of sheer output) and low- (in terms of content) water marks of the entire pink genre. The jaw-droppingly bizarre Lonely Cow is from only five years ago, and shows that the pink genre remains a place where talented cinema artists can experiment and bring their unique visions to the screen in ways that more mainstream genres couldn't possibly allow. Both titles are being provided by a new domestic distribution company called Pink Eiga, which seems to have acquired a group of films for DVD release in the US. We hadn't heard of them before organizing the series, and we'll be watching their release schedule to see if they—not to mention our own little retro—might be able to give this long-neglected and misunderstood genre another chance at capturing the imaginations (and perhaps some more nether regions) of adventurous American cinema lovers.


Blogger rfranklin15 said...

Oh man, I hope you guys get a chance to bring these to LA. I would LOVE to see them on the big screen!

9:18 PM  

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