Saturday, August 21, 2010

[Japanese Film Festival] Sing a Song of Sex (Nihon Shunka-Kô)

I'm slowly suspecting that music will continue to play a large part in the festival films presented, as thus far we got treated to the jazzy tunes in Good for Nothing, the punk rock Fish Story (still a earworm), and now a slew of Japanese folk songs with some recognizable Western evergreens peppering the soundtrack of Sing a Song of Sex, which is also known by its other title Treatise on Japanese Bawdy Songs, and boy are they bawdy when left to the devices of the singer to improvise.

Directed by Nagisa Oshima outside of the studio system, Sing a Song of Sex as the name implies has as a chief plot element a number of bawdy songs, as explained by Otake (Juzo Itami) to be an outlet for expression by the oppressed masses who have no other avenue to describe their misery, other than to sing about the pleasures of sex and desire, although a number of the lyrics tell of stories about the poor and the things they have to resort to for a living. It's quite clear that Oshima crafted a pointed commentary of society at the time (since he's largely involved in various student demonstrations), through the discussions between Otake and his group of co-ed students as they bar hop after the student examinations, the girls truly being enamoured by their handsome teacher, while the boys just tagging along because of their fantasy in bedding some, if not all, of their female schoolmates.

Like Good for Nothing, these four male students do seem like the usual teenage idle bunch, perhaps so because the examinations are just over, and they're looking for some sort of release and letting their hair down, one of which is to hit the town painting it red, and spend time watching the latest pinku film. Why not, for all hot blooded males, that the topic of sex will pop up inevitably when they talk crap and thrash talk about women and their individual sexual fantasies, that ironically, they do not know how to act around one, especially when they start boasting about what they intend to do with the school flower Fujiwara (Kazuko Tajima) whom they all call “469” based on her examination hall seating assignment.

And the way Oshima had presented this lustful desire had a ring of Nolan's Inception to it, that it deals with a shared fantasy dreamscape where all of them exist and can bear witness to one another's actions in his realm, but instead of falling into deep sleep and needing a kick to wake up, here it goes a one up in being able to do while day-dreaming, therein eliminating the risk of falling into limbo. Of course there's no idea to be planted, only idle boasts of what they're capable of which will have its bluff called later on in the film. This section of the film was one of my favourites for its conceptual execution, but the subject matter will surely disturb.

Like the films from the 60s I've seen thus far, the cinematography and the landscapes are quite the sight to behold, especially those wide shots of a wintry landscape, and the few scenes of the downtown city and subway which seem quite quaintly familiar. We follow the four friends, of whom the leader of the pack Nakamura (Ichiro Araki) stands out for having more to do in the film, and responsible for the death of Otake due to his inaction, a preventable death by a silly mistake on Otake's part if you will, but with irresponsible youths, there's always no due consideration where their actions or inactions will take them in the future.

The second half of the film splits its narrative into two tangents, leading up to the realm of the strange. In the first, we follow Nakamura to the home of Otake's sweetheart Tanigawa (Akiko Koyama)where Nakamura is contemplating how to break the news of his responsibility to her, and it becomes a guilt trip enactment of what happened. The second follows the rest of his friends as they seek out Fujiwara at an anti-Vietnam war movement, also to apologize to her for their virtual violation, but get sort of involved and caught up in the song-singing rallying of the students, and when both threads merge for the finale, it's one really warped mix of lust and desire against a quick folktale history of that between Korea and Japan, taking place inside a pyramid shaped building.

Far out. Hoi hoi!

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