Friday, November 20, 2009

REVIEW: The Glamourous Life of Sachiko Hanai

(Hanai Sachiko no karei na shōgai)

Released: 2003

Mitsuru Meike

Emi Kuroda
Takeshi Itô
Kyoko Hayami

Kikujirô Honda

Running time: 90 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

Whilst describing one of my favourite scenes from Takashi Miike’s "Visitor Q" to a co-worker with maddening glee, we touched upon how certain levels of awesome are not appreciated by everyone. The level of cinematic relevance it may have in the history of motion pictures doesn’t always translate. Sometimes, for some people, the content outweighs the films ability to forge new ground. You can tell people that "Seven Samurai" is awesome, and in the context of history its a landmark, and most will believe you. You can tell people the same for say, "Audition", and some will believe, a large number Miike fanboys which I most proudly am, but the numbers on your side quickly dwindle. But you tell people that "The Glamourous Life of Sachiko Hanai" is amazing, not just in a sexy pinku eiga kind of way, but also in an amazing cinematic revelation kind of way, and well, the numbers shrink even more.

Sachiko Hanai is a sexy home tutor. The film opens bluntly, with Sachiko seducing her student, and having some wonderful, pleasurable sex. Sounds like your typical sexy home tutor pinku film, but soon things take a sharp turn. She moves on to a café, where she’s set to meet a male acquaintance. However, she quickly realizes she’s made a mistake and arrived at the wrong café. Before she can leave however, violence breaks out. A North Korean spy, who is attempting to something top secret from a Middle Eastern man, quickly resort to gunplay. As the North Korean spy guns down his rival, Sachiko takes pictures with her camera phone, drawing the attention of the nasty gangster. He quickly turns his attention to the titillating beauty and plants a bullet right between her eyes. However, this doesn’t have the desired effect. Instead of killing her, the bullet becomes lodged in her brain, granting her amazing powers. She can consume information at an incredible rate, she can understand foreign languages, she develops advanced mathematical knowledge, gains psychic powers and an other worldly insight. She also comes into possession of the piece of gear the North Korean was after, a clone of George Bush’s naughty trigger finger. From then on, Sachiko is embroiled in a deadly game of espionage and sex.

"Sachiko Hanai" was initially released as "Horny Home Tutor: Teachers Love Juice" to pinku theatres across Japan . However director Mitsuru Meike had other plans. One of the more experimental pinku directors, he wound up shooting more footage than an hour long pink film needed. He wanted to have cinematic impact. Released at Nippon Connection in 2005 under its new title, "Sachiko Hanai" went on to play at several more high profile festivals, and became the first pinku film to get an American release in an art cinema circuit.

Not quite a sex film, not quite a spy film and not quite a political satire, "The Glamourous Life of Sachiko Hanai" is a pink film that’s unbound by its genre. Like the films of Koji Wakamatsu, director Mitsuru Meike uses the boundless and borderless genre of pinku eiga to sate his creative appetite. He has something to say about the state of the world, and damn it, he’s going to have his say. It does still belong to the pinku genre, so yes, the production value isn’t top notch, the film isn’t a polished jewel of cinematic excellence, but there is so much creative energy flowing through the film that you can’t help but get excited by it. The crayon drawing used for the insert shot of Sachiko’s brain as she pushes the bullet deeper into her cranial cavity with a pencil is brilliant. The use of G.I.Joe like toys to depict the US soldiers panicking in the war room is genius. I don’t think I’ve experienced this much intentional laughter during a pink film than when I watched this. Even the sex scenes are injected with little touches of creative brilliance, such as the guy who can’t stop ejaculating (I found that really funny). And of course, its political, George Bush’s finger searching for WMD’s inside Sachiko’s vagina while video’s of Baghdad play on a TV behind her.

The film will be hard to swallow I think for most. Those who love political films maybe turned off by the pornography, while those looking for pornography will probably be turned off by the political and experimental aspects. But if you’re open to new cinematic experiences, that include horny home tutors with amazing intellectual powers embroiled in a race to save the earth from total destruction, then this film is for you!

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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