Mr. Ogata lives a complicated life: he is a pornographer making two skin flicks per day and trying to stay beneath the radar screen of the local mob; he deeply loves his ailing wife Haru who's cursed by the restless spirit of her dead first husband; he also has a mistress, a step-son who wants to go to university, and a step-daughter entering adolescence. He lusts after his step-daughter, and when Haru finds out about those sexual advances, she asks him to marry the girl. Haru even signs over her business to him, and a crisis ensues when Ogata uses her nest egg to buy equipment so he and his pals can set up their own film processing lab. Surreal images and events weave their way into Ogata's life.Written by
Black Comedy Of Manners In The '60's Japanese Underbelly
Imamura is younger, and less well known, than those Japanese directors who came to international attention in the 1950's. He was for a while a trainee of Ozu's, though there are few stylistic indicators of that in "The Pornographer". This is quite clearly a new-wave film with hints of Godard and Fellini. Freeze frames, fantasy and a habit of framing scenes through windows means that this looks unlike the earlier classic Japanese films. Subu the eponymous pornographer initially believes that he is a public servant, providing for the less salubrious needs of his customers - photos, films and potions. He has a bizarre home life with a widowed hairdresser and her two children. Both the making of pornography and his odd home life provide some moments of rich black comedy. Other elements, such as the interaction with local gangsters, appear less central to the film and don't always fit in easily. This is not the sort of film where acting is of great importance, here it varies from good to acceptable. The main fault of the film is the length. 127 minutes is not necessarily long, it's just that it feels too long here by about 30 minutes (around midway there are some tedious patches). To sum up an interesting film by a director still little known, if it does not reach the heights of Kurosawa, Ozu, Kobayashi or Ichikawa at their peaks, the truth is that no post 1960's Japanese film has. It is certainly better than the three films by Oshima (the only other Japanese new-wave director with any international reputation - possibly more for the "pornograhic" nature of his films than any real quality) I have seen.
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