Friday, March 5, 2010

REVIEW: Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio

痴漢電車 ちんちん発車 (Chikan densha: chinchin hassya)

Released: 1984

Director: Yojiro Takita

Yukijiro Hotaru
Yoshimi Kai

Rei Matsubara
Yuka Takemura

Running time: 67 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

“This story is a work of fiction…maybe”. So starts "Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio", the 24th film in the farcical Pinku eiga. We immediately jump to Private Detective Kuroda and his cute assistant Hamako at their colorfully lit detective agency, Hamako reading a letter from a gentleman caller from back home. It seems that there is a tradition in her native village that once a woman reaches 23 years of age, she must get married, and if she doesn’t, her family is executed! And the man who has been arranged to marry her is on his way to Tokyo to meet her! They only way to deter the future father of her children is to prove she already has a husband. So she must find a stand in, and fast. At the same time, Kuroda has been hired by a wealthy man in the last days of his life, wishing to find his son and daughter so they can inherit his mass fortune. Of course, the only identifying mark given to Kuroda is that the daughter has a diamond filling! So it’s back to the train to grope woman and find the diamond filling!

"Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio" is a different beast than the previous film in the series, "Search for the Black Pearl". Given that its still by Academy award winning director Yojiro Takita, it still maintains the same cinematic vibrance the previous film has, and it still has the underlying sense of heartwarming pleasure and comedic spontaneity. It takes nothing seriously, and because of this, the nudity and the sex seem more satirical of the genre. But the zany European sex comedy inspired antics are replaced with outrageous film spoofs and not so mad cap antics. The groping and sex scenes take more of a backseat, and aren’t nearly as graphic, most of it more implied than shown. Of course the train groping still exists, and it’s still pretty wacky, as Kuroda in full dental regalia fondles women without their consent. In comparison to the previous film, it comes off as a little more creepy, but of course he isn’t doing this for any kind of sexual pleasure, he only does it so that in throws of ecstasy, when the woman opens her mouth with a moan, he can inspect her teeth, searching for that diamond filling. Is he trying to be subversive with his depiction of groping, because there’s really nothing glamorous or remotely arousing about what Kuroda is doing. Pinku deconstruction?

The true misfit of the film is a composer dressed as Napoleon who also happens to grope women on the train, and who also becomes the man Hamako uses as her husband stand in. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, and he turns out to be the son of the dying billionaire! With two tales that seemingly become intertwined, the plot is incredibly tight. It’s obvious that Takita leaves nothing superfluous in the film, and it’s obvious he’s more inclined to focus on cinematic and narrative technique than he is using creative methods to show people having sex. Of course he does all of the above rather well. There’s a brilliantly funny split screen phone conversation that’s done with lighting rather than optics, leaving the scene open for one character to crossover into the other characters space. But what really made me laugh was the musical clue left to Kuroda and Hamako to help them crack the case, which winds up referencing Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Under Takita’s direction and screenwriter Isao Takagi’s comedic hand, "Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio" is a pretty entertaining and satirical film, and like "Search for the Black Pearl", will make you laugh, if not for its innately charming protagonists and their antics, then at least from the more WTF moments that arise from the bizarre, madcap characters that populate the script and the silly and daft situations they find themselves in. If you don’t laugh at Kuroda in spandex dancing like Jennifer Beals, then you’re dead inside.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog. 

1 comment:

Dr. Stan Glick said...

Haven't seen "Groper Train: Wedding Capriccio" but just may have to check it out. A straight-forward drama about groping on Japanese subway trains is "I Just Didn't Do It." It's about a young man who is mistakenly accused of groping a schoolgirl, and the Kafkaesque world of the Japanese legal system If interested in reading about it, go to the October 2007 archive of my blog, My post is ACF 050, Dated Monday, October 08, 2007.