Saturday, 6 October 2012

Violent Virgin (1969) Koji Wakamatsu

You know, I like experimental films and I like pinku films. But as it turns out, those aren't two great tastes that go great together.. Well, not exactly. Violent Virgin falls into that odd hinterland of of occasionally striking and too generally interesting to ignore, but not powerful, cohesive nor overall forceful enough to quite qualify as a proper success. The plot is certainly somewhat inspired, a young couple eloping from the city have been intercepted by gangsters who take them to a deserted field and force them into a twisted theatre parody of society. One can easily see the potential spreading out, the absurdity of societal structures revealed in abstraction, the havoc that they wreak upon the individual and the action of the beast within man once unbound by the loosing of normality. It's all there, but in a slightly unsatisfying light and loose way, the effect being less of a clearly thought provoking comment and more an undisciplined riffing on place and theme, spiralling around and by the by out into nothing. It isn't a terribly gripping experience, but not really a dull one either, with a fair amount of nudity (mostly breasts), and some entertaining blunt violence, especially scenes involving baseball bats.

As was often the case in older Wakamatsu films, both color and black and white are used, black and white for what the camera sees in general surveyance of the landscape and action and color for what the protagonist sees. The balance is interesting, though the color scenes have an inevitable vividity in comparison, they ultimately come across as bleak as the black and white, the implication being of a grim insignificance to the individual and his view, no matter how he might try to impress himself upon a scene. There's also prominent use of a Christian image whose purpose is less easy to divine, either an obvious critique or elusive comment, or perhaps just there in spirit of the surreal. Like much else in the film it's an interesting touch but heavy handed and insignificant in the end. Quality acting might have granted greater weight to things, but most of the cast seem wrapped up and ineffectual, with the exception of the final scenes they seem generally experimenting rather than whole heartedly participating. The script shoulders a good deal of the blame here though, though there are moments of emotion there's very little here of naturalism for anyone to easily get their teeth into.

So in the end this is a divisive piece for me. I'm certainly glad I saw it, it has plenty of good as well as bad and I won't forget it in a hurry, but at the same time its a disappointment both from generic perspectives and coming from an otherwise frequently brilliant director. A worthy curio is perhaps the best summation, worthy, intriguing but inessential, to be pursued or dismissed mostly depending on your level of tolerance for the odder end of this kinf of Japanese cult fare.

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