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Friday, December 23, 2011

NIKUTAI NO MON / GATE OF FLESH (1964)

The urban chaos of Tokyo in its post-WWII devastation is the teeming backdrop for Seijun Suzuki’s visually extravagant film about an ad-hoc prostitute collective & the macho thief who disrupts their well-run business. Suzuki returned to the subject, in a more soberly realistic b&w style in THE STORY OF A PROSTITUTE/’65, but this film’s gaudy colors & theatrical look emphasize the pinch-penny studio sets in the city (which come off brilliantly) and blasted landscapes (which don’t). The girls keep their end up, working & living in a partially bombed-out warehouse, by holding strictly to their ‘house rules,’ most especially, ‘Never Give Anything Away.’ But when the wounded Jo Shishido turns up, it’s just a matter of time before his schemes & manly charms take their toll. Suzuki was always fighting with his home studio, Nikkatsu, but they must have been pleased by the ample doses of sex & violence with tru-love answered by ritualistic soft-core S&M punishments. Great for the Box-Office! A secondary plot involving Shishido’s mob ties and some stolen penicillin helps to tie everything up, but it’s the bright lights of corruption & revenge that make this one another Suzuki treat.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Rather like the prostitutes in this film, once Suzuki got free of the restrictions & genre formats @ Nikkatsu, artistic freedom turned out to be a two-edged career sword. Do any of his later films measure up to his best as galley slave @ Nikkatsu?

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