Sunday, August 1, 2010

REVIEW: Cloistered Nuna: Runa’s Confession

修道女ルナの告白 (Shudojo Runa no kokuhaku)

Masaru Konuma

Runa Takamura
Kumi Taguchi
Yoko Azusa
Nobutaka MasutomiAoi Nakajima

Running time: 74 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

By the time Masaru Konuma made "Cloistered Nuna: Runa’s Confession", 2 years had passed since he’d made his S&M masterpiece "Wife to be Sacrificed". The one, two punch of that film and "Flower and Snake" helped cement his career, not only as a Roman Porno director at Nikkatsu, but also in the pantheon of Pinku film history. This is the man who mentored Hideo Nakata after all, so his influence cannot be taken lightly. And with "Runa’s Confession", he took aim at the always entertaining Nunsploitation genre, a genre that may seem strange in Japan , a country in which Christianity has never been a major religion. But these riffs on the wild and crazy world of Catholic nuns are used as a front to attack not only foreign imperialism, but also organized religion and on a broader scale, institutions as a whole.

Runa Takamura plays Runa; a sad and desperate girl who flees the miseries of life after her boyfriend cheats on her with her not so chaste sister Kumi, played by Kumi Taguchi. Runa ends up in the confines of a convert, hoping to find peace and happiness. Instead she finds a place just as morally corrupt as the outside world. Years later, after being exposed to the perverse sexual world of the Catholic Church, Runa decides to return to city life. On the surface she seeks to mend her broken relationship with her sister Kumi, who pretends to still be romantically entangled with the old flame so that they make take part in a get rich quick real estate scheme Runa and her asshole licking rector (Robert Prinz) have come to offer. But underneath, Runa has something much better in store for her sister and her ex-lover.

The film essentially opens with Runa ringing the church bell as the rector eats out her asshole. Strong, blasphemous imagery and it was great. Plus, the use of the word ‘rector’ to describe this priest with an asshole fetish was quite funny on its own. Not sure if that’s just something the subtitling person put in, or that is actually the Japanese word used, but either way, entertaining. From that asshole munching opening, Konuma presents two worlds where there is a serene, beautiful and tranquil surface with a perverse, dark and sexually disturbing underbelly. Everything in this film plays off according to that duality, whether it be the church, Kumi, the boyfriend and obviously Runa herself. Is this film attacking Christianity with such a harsh depiction of it? Sort of. I think it’s telling that the priest is a white man (from what country I’m not sure), so if anything it’s an attack on the imperialistic nature of what foreigners bring to the country, often disguised as beautiful, enlightening things but are really carriers of moral corruption. But that seed doesn’t spread from Christianity, it’s kept entirely separate. The corruption co-exists in society too, spread by the need for money and pretty things. Kumi leads several men on, giving them vaginal prints (something Yojiro Takita would use a decade later in "Molester Train: Search for the Black Pearl"), using them for money so she can live a lavish life. The ex-boyfriend is in real estate, trying to find the big score so he can be richer than astronauts.

It’s the duality of these institutions the film attacks, but in reality, it comes off as tame, especially compared with the opening of the film, and of course the far more volatile "Wife to be Sacrificed". Konuma doesn’t like to push buttons nearly as much as some of his contemporaries, but on the plus side, he still knows how to make a good film. He’s got a keen sense of montage, and some of the cross cutting, between scenes and images is terrific. The climax, literally, has to be the final mass sex scene, cutting between Runa and her ex-lover, Kumi getting her comeuppance, and voyeuristic bartender getting her fill. It’s really well done, and would make Eisenstein proud. There’s even some clever use of an optical printer or other superimpositioning device to meld the sexual climax into one glorious image! Plus, Runa, the namesake of the film, isn’t a half bad actor. The former member of Golden Half, an early seventies pop group comprised entirely of mixed Japanese and foreign ancestry females, emotes her evolving sense of desperation to playful revenge rather well.

A tale well told: yes, but it still lacks the punch I was looking for. It didn’t provoke nearly as much as I was hoping, but it still manages to bastardize several of societal institutions quite well.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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