Thursday, 13 December 2012

Sex Jack (1970) Koji Wakamatsu

Despite the inviting Anglicised title Sex Jack (I don't know what the Japanese Seizoku actually translates to) is one of the more restrained and ordinary Wakamatsu efforts that have made it to Western audiences. There is sex but it's neither gratuitous nor violent, and there's no character named Jack. What we have here is the life of a revolutionary group, on the run and eking out last days of sex and boredom in a run down flat. Wakamatsu was something of a revolutionary himself, but neither aloft intellectual nor hungry juvenile, possessed instead of a notable fervid insight. So the characters are not beautiful or glamorous, not intelligent nor energetic, sustained only loosely by a sense of group solidarity, a faith in their own existence. The camera is close but not intimate, never warm, critical and never sharing. The trouble is that there isn't a whole lot of action in the physical sense or otherwise, so while the well evoked ennui is pretty interesting and makes for a smoothly watchable ride it isn't especially compelling and certainly not all that memorable. At least there are some terrific visuals, a reckless muddy scuffle and a conversation under a bridge separating worlds, a whole different realm out away in the bright unknown horizon, powerful facial close-ups and other highlights underscoring all the muck, clueless youth and isolated longing.

There's some intrigue to the story also, the group fearing for their future, wary of government, perhaps a mole in their midst. Things neither unravel nor wind up to breaking point but brood, the films progress has the quality of a thickening, and gradual clarification, purpose coming to be through the pointless. Enough here that I was entertained, but students of the era may very likely find more, with socio-historical context more apparent. Without context though, it still manages to be slightly more successful than Wakamatsu's similar, later Ecstasy of the Angels, which despite featuring slightly stronger content was overlong, over-complex and a little dull. All together Sex Jack is best recommended to fans of the director who were never too fussed about the seedy and grotesque sides of his work, those interested in vintage cult cinema, Japanese or otherwise, and those who appreciate political cinema of a time when art really felt like it mattered to the world. I almost feel bad for not liking it more but hey, I did still like it some. Worthy use of my time, 6/10 kind of film or so