Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Black Rose Ascension (1975) Tatsumi Kumashiro
I've long enjoyed films about film making and makers. The mechanisms exposed make a double image, the art we see reflecting off it's artifice and vice versa. And really, what better subject than pornography, the art of flesh wrought to make illusion as real and seductive as possible. Black Rose Ascension, a rather atypical outing from Nikkatsu takes a pornographer and his travails as its subject and does a rather fine job of gazing within makers cape to find not golden conjurer but sad human, pink and precarious. Shin Kashida plays said pornographer, on the lookout for a new leading lady after his intended falls pregnant. For some reason I wouldn't have thought being with child would be an impediment to being an adult star in Japan, but then sadly I'm not Japanese. Anyhoo, he finds a new star in the troubled Ikuyo (the always lovely Naomi Tani in a rare relatively un-exploitative role), then falls in love with her and surprisingly, things don't entirely go wrong. Which is not to say that everything goes right, but the sadness is less cynical or mean than many, and is tinged with a certain unforced wistful yearning and touching beauty. The characters here are restrained and human, some very much flawed like the director, but all shaded to an interesting degree of reality. The locations and direction contribute to this reality, cable cars, girders, water and beach, wooden dwelling hanging on a wall, interior shots cramped and clustered while exteriors gaze on the actors often from afar, while many of the pinku Black Rose Ascension places its characters and their works and dreams as fragile pieces very much part of the general urban bustle, a sense always that forces without may be as important as those within. It's slice of life cinema really, quite some distance from what one might expect of a Nikkatsu film with Naomi Tani and a role for fellow pinku star Terumi Azuma. Sleaze hounds may well be put off then, though there is sex and nudity and moments of meanness they are never gratuitous or particularly eyebrow raising, just part and parcel of the world on show. Now, as slice of life cinema goes this isn't terribly sharp, at least not to these eyes (those more fully versed in the genre or the mid 70's Japanese milieu may differ), it isn't exactly the most impactful or notable of films. And yet it stays charming in the memory, and stretches out such as to provide some lingering food for thought, some scraps that linger pleasant in the eye. It has almost something of the US indie drama to it, albeit thoroughly different in details and lacking any great pretensions. Good food for when richness feels to gauche then, and a recommendation from me.