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STORY OF A PROSTITUTE

Japan, 1965 (MIFF 2000, Seijun Suzuki – Violence & Beauty)

Director: Seijun Suzuki

Some sequences in Story of a Prostitute are so achingly beautiful, they scar the mind. In fact, I would argue that Suzuki's most powerful films revolve around women. OK—so they re always prostitutes in one way or another, but a potent trait of Japanese cinema has been its portrayal of the geisha in modern guise, and along with Suzuki's own Gate of Flesh (1964), Story of a Prostitute is a landmark in psycho-sexual portraiture. But don't expect to tug your emotional crotch for any 'hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold' here. Story of a Prostitute is the anti-matter version of the moving yet comparatively cashmere Paradise Road. In place of a cathartic and healing resolution, Story of a Prostitute self-immolates in dramatic anguish like a scar inflamed by the heated knife which attempts to cauterise it. Its tragic story is set against the Manchurian War front of 1937 and centred around the splayed love expressed and commodified by 'comfort women' incarcerated in a hellish pornographic outpost for the Japanese military. Harumi—played with a mix of volatile hatred and impassioned desire by Yumiko Nogawa, star of Gate of Flesh—enters this inferno of bodily abjection with a will to disempower Man, and commits to this through a savage extinguishing of her own humanity. She crashes through love like Suzuki's Yakuza tear through the paper walls of their gambling dens. She swims in her saturated bed and imagines Man as a draining stream of faceless limbs. She lies with her unconscious lover in a bombarded trench and hears the quietude of a village near the ocean. The unexpected poetry and engulfing prose wilh which she is pictured, intoned and imagined will leave you hung dry and emptied. File with Vagabonde, Georgia, I Spit On Your Grave—but label Suzuki.

See also...

BRANDED TO KILL

Possibly Suzuki's most infamous film, Branded To Kill certainly retains its searing punch after repeated viewing. Curiously, it is also his least Pop Art and quivers with a heightened otherness ... More »

YOUTH OF THE BEAST

Jojini Mizuno is a disgraced ex-cop convicted for illicit dealings. He infiltrates two competing gangs with a secret agenda, setting mobster against mobster. Like a stubborn drunkard, he crashes his ... More »

TOKYO DRIFTER

The Dark Side of Pop, a series of Japanese CDs, focuses on the weird songs recorded by movie stars, ex-boxers, gangsters and freaky-nobodies from the 60s and 70s. Many of them were huge; some went ... More »

VIOLENCE ELEGY

One of Suzukis most intellectual yet perplexing films. Violence Elegy could be somewhere between Porky's and Zero For Conduct. It follows the delinquent exploits of Kiroku Nanbu (Hideki Takahashi) as ... More »

DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL, BASTARDS!

The global phenomenon of James Bond is an archetypal instance of 60s audiovisual brashness. The sheer loudness and pictorial noise of the first Bond films and their ironic self-consciousness ... More »

Drop

A companion piece of sorts to Mermaid, Drop utilizes similar brush and wash backgrounds, but stylizes its central protagonist in broader caricature. Tezuka made this film in one week as a ... More »

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