Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where I Draw The Line. Period.

Ok, before I head into the more family friendly George A. Romero Month reviews, I’d like to take a second and expose one final cinematic war criminal and his shameful ‘movies’. I’ve recently been looking for a satisfactory answer to the question where do I draw the line? Well I’ve found it; it’s in taste, sure, but mostly it’s about intent and it’s about women. A horror film with no money can be, if nothing else, interesting and thoughtful. More often than not however, filmmakers rely on the constant and unending appeal of women being tormented as screen fodder. I don’t find it appealing but it’s been true since 1896 that women, nude and nearly so, put men into theatre seats. A woman in trouble is the oldest cinematic convention (just ask David Lynch) and a woman with her clothes off is about as close to a guarantee for financial success as you could ask for when you’re making a movie, like it or not (I don’t). I think that nudity and sexuality both can be beautiful and erotic and can be so without being offensive, objectifying or distasteful (I’ve seen it happen). But if something can be conclusively said of men, it’s that they enjoy power and they’d rather not wait when they can get something by force. Which brings us to Entrails of a Virgin and Entrails of a Beautiful Woman, maybe the worst and certainly the most offensively misogynistic films I’ve ever seen.

Entrails of a Virgin
by Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu
First, a correction: the only entrails we see belong to someone who is not a virgin. Three female models and three men (boss, photographer, model) are on a photo shoot for what I take to be lingerie (what they’re selling was the furthest thing from writer/director Komizu’s mind). Within seconds we see one of the women sucking off one of the men (brace yourself, this is going to be a long fucking night). They arrive at their hotel following the shoot, get a few drinks in them and decide that the best start to what promises to be a truly enchanting evening is to have the only male model wrestle one of the women (apparently the photographer’s girlfriend). He does so until she is so frightened and overwhelmed that she pisses herself. The young man wanders off leaving the girl unconscious on the floor; he is caught by what Komizu would have us believe is something frightening, it’s a man with mud on his skin and he’s not scary or interesting to look at. He kills the male model. The two conscious couples break off and the two men browbeat the women into stripping so that they might rape them, which they do. The man with mud on him kills both men (one with a javelin…!?), rapes all of the women, kills two of them and leaves the other pregnant, which she doesn’t seem all that bothered by. The. Fucking. End.

Entrails of a Virgin came out of the Japanese Pink Film or Pinku Eiga movement. After the commercial Japanese movie began falling into disfavor around the early 60s, when new wave directors like Hiroshi Teshigahara and Shohei Imamura were drawing youthful crowds and making films that the mainstream considered blasphemous, little studios began looking for marketable alternatives. Everybody likes a good skin picture, don’t they? Well apparently in Japan they do. Minor studios like Nikkatsu began churning out soft-core pornography to fill time between their actual movies. I mention Nikkatsu specifically because of a little known director called Seijun Suzuki. Seijun Suzuki is one of my favorite directors of all time and he was something like the Japanese Sam Fuller. His bigger films are Youth of the Beast, Tokyo Drifter, and Gate of Flesh. He was under contract with Nikkatsu for most of the 1960s but he wasn’t much of a talent until he released Youth of the Beast in 1963; it was wild and different and pulpy and fun, so naturally the higher-ups at Nikkatsu did a lot of nail biting. As his film’s got more sexual and strange the studio heads got more nervous until he signed his own pink slip with Branded To Kill. I may or may not actually review this film as it defies most genre descriptions; it can’t be called horror but it seems to be horrible at times, even though it’s ostensibly a crime film. The only thing I think to compare it to is Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder, but that doesn’t really do its premise and originality justice. Either way the powers that be finally said “Enough” and showed Suzuki the door. You know what didn’t get the axe? Pink films. They made pink films well into the 1990s when they went bankrupt.

Pink Films as a genre don’t have much in common other than their strange depictions of sexuality. If you ever needed proof that you know nothing about Japanese culture, put in Go, Go Second Time Virgin sometime and revel in your ignorance as I did. Go, Go Second Time Virgin might be called an archetypal pink film, which is handy because it was co-written by Kazuo Komizu. Komizu wrote a few such films before finally getting the chance to direct one. By his own admission he was young and angry at the world when in 1986 he directed Entrails of a Virgin (he was also apparently higher than Hunter Thompson; the man seems barely able to keep it together in interviews). Young and angry? I can get behind that, unless you meant angry at women and young in that you have a truly repugnant and boorish view of sexuality and a deep rooted hatred for women that could only be explained by childhood trauma. That I can’t stomach.

Pinku Eiga were in danger of becoming extinct by the 80s (of all things Japan was behind on its fucked up movies) and so producers were looking for something to steal so they could fill grindhouses again. The answer came in the form of Friday the 13th and its ilk; following the release of that seminal 80s slasher film, a good many of the sex films in Japan took on the characteristics of a slasher film and rode that wave until long after it was still marketable in the states (or even Italy). It made some sense that studio heads would turn to Komizu to deliver the goods as he’d helped define Pinku Eiga with his contributions to Second Time Virgin. The result is something like a Japanese take on Joe D’Amato’s Porno Holocaust except without the dated camp feel to it or the minor pleasure that comes from the awareness that you’re watching a Joe D’Amato film. Also missing: a shred of decency.

Porno Holocaust wasn’t exactly Gone With The Wind, so a rip-off would have to be pretty slimy, but I never expected to see a movie that made Thriller: Un Grym Film seem progressive. I do apologize, those of you who frequent these pages, for continually showing up with new names and obscure sleaze films like a cat who keeps dragging in increasingly gross dead mice and saying: “This is the guy we need to be most angry with! Forget those other guys.” The reason I don’t rank Komizu up there with Franco Prosperi and Gualtiero Jacopeti is because his films lacked the ambition of even someone like Joe D’Amato. His casts and budgets were microscopic and hardly anybody saw his movies (I hope after you read this, you will stay the hell away from them as well). Prosperi and Jacopeti were in the system; Komizu was decidedly outside of anything resembling a system, essentially a student film with money, which was good news for feminists but bad news for anybody who’s seen his movies. He may have been in the employ of Nikkatsu studios, but he was making his own damn movie. And I'd be perfectly willing to accept that producer Toshio Satô was really the one calling all the shots, but I have no proof, so until someone tells me otherwise, I blame Komizu.

I did hesitate before launching into this tirade because I do understand that by acknowledging it, I’m giving it power, (oh and be advised the following is pretty graphic so don’t continue if you want to keep your lunch). I cannot let this one slide, however, because this movie is approximately an hour and 14 minutes of rape. Even the sex that is supposed to be ‘consensual’ is announced by sounds that are hard to see as anything other than protestation. The women are raped first by their bosses who clearly do this all the time, then by the mud-monster who wears a giant fake wooden penis. The girl who urinates on herself wakes up after a few minutes lying on the floor with a renewed sex drive. She demands sex from one of the men; when he rejects her, she tries to fellate one of the other men, who is dead; she pleasures herself with a severed hand and asks the monster to have sex with her; afterwards he kills her in a most unpleasant way. This movie is not erotic or even pornographic if we take that word as it appears in the dictionary; images designed to arouse sexual stimulation and emotional reaction. This isn’t stimulating; it’s rape! Nothing in this movie is pleasing in any fashion. What kind of view of sexuality and femininity is that? And why did this movie get made? Why were there TWO SEQUELS?!?!?!

You might be able to see it as the western “have sex and die” tack favored by Friday the 13th or just a copy of the formula employed in Porno Holocaust, but I can’t see it as anything other than cowardly misogyny. Komizu never has his characters own up to their crimes like they would in any Italian or American film of the same vintage; revenge is earned in those films by shouting the misdeeds of rapists and promiscuous teens (not in the same league, by the way, but that’s unfortunately how they were portrayed in exploitation films) from the rooftops. They were almost post-modernly aware of the things they were trying to condemn (by the time the makers of Friday the 13th movies made it to the twentieth century, their movies consisted almost entirely of pastiches of earlier films in the series and contemporary sci-fi/horror). 

Entrails of a Virgin is just despicable. It has some of the very worst effects, direction, and script of any movie to be given a DVD release from this or any place and time. I’ve seen pathetic straight-to-VHS and made-for-sci-fi movies before but this movie makes pieces of lo-fi shit like The Item and Raptor Island look inspired. And I don’t mean that in my usual joking manner; I mean I actually think that The Item, a film which features Reservoir Dogs gangster clones chasing each other on razor scooters that are just out of frame so that we’d think they were running and a monster that is in actuality a talking sack with a face drawn onto it, is a better movie than this. I've seen aproximately one film I hate more than Entrails of a Virgin:

Entrails of a Beautiful Woman
by Kazuo “Gaira” Komizu

A yakuza gang rapes women, gets them addicted to heroine and kills them until one of their victims decides to get revenge. She turns into a skinless monster with a toothed penis and kills them all. To say anymore would make it seem like a real movie. It's not. It's really all the evidence anyone would need at Komizu's murder trial. The images are so vile and so hateful that I won't call them film, nor even pornographic. This film is lower than trash. I apologize if I sound a touch like a moaning child, but I swear my righteous anger is founded. Having just sat through a class, at film school for Christ’s sake, where men say things like “there are two things to do about the objectification of women – try and make a buck off it or sit back and let it happen” and girls seem pretty ok that women are blamed for rape and that dancing naked is considered empowering, I’m fed the fuck up with people giving churlish fuckheads a platform so they can espouse their infantile bullshit to people who didn’t ask, don’t care, and wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire. It’s 2009, can we treat women like people now?


ZedWord said...

Normally my comments would be more ariculate, but you did a good job of expressing why these films are hateful trash.

So, I'll just say "blargh"

Scøut said...

I do appreciate the sympathy, old man. Ordinarily I would do the same, but these were just atrocious, unforgivable, and had to say something.

Julia Sevin said...

Great article. Now I know to avoid something I didn't even know existed.

Scøut said...

Yeah, there's a lot of that here.

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