Friday, 14 February 2014

Flesh Target: Rape! (1979) Yukihiro Hawada

Oh, what woe is the plight of the Japanese businessman. Watching beautiful women, reduced to ages, jobs, lovers, rankings, just objects passing by. Lusting after them, but they can't be yours, you're just a lowly, lonely face gazing out from the midst of a hundred and more faceless windows. A ways off planes take off and land, ships forge through the water but you're just a small man. And one night at an important meeting in a restaurant you drink too much and slug your condescending lecher director and all seems down the tubes. But then you set about raping your way through the women of your company and things are actually looking up. Wait, what? Back up there a second dude...

Yep, this is late 70's violent pink through and through. I've not encountered the work of director Yukihiro Sawada before but if Flesh Target: Rape! is any good indication I need to check out more. Several notable features here, the first being a distinct sense of grotesque satire in its depiction of office life so meaningless, so stultifying that not even a rapist (and not a terribly subtle one at that) can make much in the way of dangerous ripples. I rather wonder how popular audiences of Japan reacted to this back in the day: hosts of defamed and disapproving frowns? Or wry smirks of acknowledgement and twinkling eyes in the dark? The rape scenes also stand out, reminiscent of the work of better known Nikkatsu contemporary Yasaharu Hasebe they are varied in location and fuse the rough and gritty (lots of convincing wailing and crying) with the cruelly erotic (like a head and single breast burst through a paper apartment wall, bouncing with forceful thrust) and ultimately mythic. Our lead ends up usually providing pleasure however reluctantly felt and despite his acts breaking not only the fundamental taboo but breaching various literal and symbolic barriers commonly accepted, the simplest form coming early as he rapes a lady in a deep roadside puddle as the rain lashes ever fiercely down. And the lead character himself, Nezu (it seems right to only use his name later) played with skill by one Keijiro Shiga. He's an empty vessel, rape fills him like some invigorating narcotic, but when the deed ends he returns to emptiness, a cool recurring guitar theme the most notable aftermath. He grows slowly, by an accumulation of gestures and reactions but not some great change, like a vessel that is filled and emptied and refilled and emptied again over and over but never cleaned he layers inside. Interesting in a few ways this, first it deflects the inherent nastiness of the premise, steering the film a little away from the unabashed rapesploitation of something like Rape: 13th Hour. Plus it deepens the satire, taking the deadening atmosphere as internalised, and foreshadows the irony of the close of things.

Altogether this is a real genre winner, apart from some minor tightenings here and there I can think of little that could improve it. Not exactly flush with intrigue or variety and perhaps demanding of a mindset already experienced in the field, but for the interested or the already hooked this borders on essential. So go watch!