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Monday, January 2, 2012

JINRUIGAKU NYUMON / THE PORNOGRAPHERS (1966)

A stunner. This exhilarating work from Shohei Imamura may be largely free of anything resembling actual pornography, but it’s got heaps of perversity, devilishly clever plot turns, some phenomenal acting, cinematic style to spare . . . and a dead husband reincarnated as a pet carp. At this point in his career, was there anything Imamura couldn’t get away with? As advertised, our middle-aged protagonist is indeed a pornographer, and proud of the service he offers, shooting zero-budget ‘sex loops’ with an imposing rack of multiple 8mm cameras. Always short on cash, he works as many angles as he can: selling reupholstered ‘virgins’ to elderly businessmen, borrowing against the mortgage on the house & barbershop of his common-law wife or supplicating the greedy Yakuza Protection racket. And his personal affairs are equally messy: his common-law wife avoids sexual contact; and when he gets something going, that darn reincarnated carp starts acting up. Truth is, she’d rather cuddle provocatively with her wastrel, college-aged son. Fair enough since the hubby’s all eyes for his 15 yr-old step-daughter, a budding relationship fully endorsed by the wife on her death bed. No wonder Mr Pornographer is unfazed when a Father/Daughter duo (make that Father/Retarded Daughter duo) shows up to shoot some action. Imamura ties this all together with a bravura technique of frames and masked camera shots, punctuated by the natural editing of those sliding Japanese doors, with multiple window panes and wall panels carving out mise-en-scène to die for. Plus hallucinatory jumps in time continuity, topped with a breathtaking rock & roll music cue during a fit of hysteria. This isn’t a film for the cinematically squeamish. Just be warned that Imamura rarely gives his characters identifying close-ups, so you may need to rewatch a scene or two to get your bearings straight. But this darkly comic tale is worth a bit of extra effort.

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