by Chris MaGee
Okay, this story requires a bit of a preamble. I was up late on Saturday because I couldn't sleep and I was surfing around on the internet. I think I was looking for the Japanese title to one of the "Yokai Monsters" movies from the late 60s. Well, I found it on what is now proving to be one of my new favorite blogs, Osamu Nomura's Hugo Strikes Back (in Japanese). Nomura has some strange fascinations: anatomical drawings, dogs in gas masks, 50s fetish models, Peruvian mummies, "Alice in Wonderland" and in amongst the weirdness I saw a trailer for a film that I'd never heard of. Titled "Hottentot Apron: A Sketch" it was directed by Kei Shichiri and it was first screened at the 10th Art Film Festival of the Aichi Arts Center in 2006 followed only by a handful of follow-up screenings throughout Japan and one screening in Osnabrück, Germany since then.
Now the title of this 65-minute film, "Hottentot Apron", is a colloquial term for elongated or enlarged labia and according to this review by Yuji Sato of the Asahi Shimbun that's not the only anatomical reference that Shichiri and screenwriter Minori Shinsaku work into this odd little project. The plot, if you can call it a plot, involves a young woman, played by Hiroko Akune, who is obsessed with a large hemangioma (benign vascular tumor) on her hip. After meeting a hooded man she crawls into a cardboard box we can only assume symbolizes her own fantasy world and it's there that she discovers a life-sized doll who bears the same birthmark.
Okay, yes this dialogue free film does indeed sound like an art film with a capital "A", but with North American audiences fixated on finding strange films from Japan, and thus far projects like Sion Sono's "Strange Circus", Sogo Ishii's "Electric Dragon 80,000V" and Mai Tominaga's "Wool 100%" finding DVD releases on these shores I was really surprised that this one had slipped under the radar for so long. Shichiri's IMDb page doesn't even list "Hottentot Apron: A Sketch"! Certainly art house-minded distributors like Facets or Tidepoint would have taken a look at this.
Hopefully I've sparked your curiosity about this strange and seemingly beautiful film, but if not then head over to the film's official site here and browse through some of the gorgeous stills, as well as watch the trailer for "Hottentot Apron: A Sketch" below.