Sunday, September 12, 2010

REVIEW: Erotic Diary of an Office Lady

OL官能日記 あァ!私の中で
(OL kanno nikki: Ah! Watashi no naka de)

Released: 1977

Masaru Konuma
Asami Ogawa
Michio Hino
Tatsuya Hamaguchi
Maya Kudou

Running time: 72 min.

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

"Erotic Diary of an Office Lady" is the seventh and final film in Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno "Office Lady Journal" series, started in 1972 during the early years of their pink films. By 1977, Masaru Konuma had already established himself as a Roman Porno heavyweight, having completed "Wife to be Sacrificed" and "Flower and Snake" years earlier. While the subversive nature of his films fluctuated over the years in between, very few matching what he did with "Wife to be Sacrificed", his cinematic audacity and skilled use of montage ensure that his films remained a step above others churned out by the studio.

Asami Ogawa makes her star debut as Asami Suzumura, an office worker who’s having an affair with her boss. She spends her days at work in a busy downtown office, meeting her boss for their sexual encounter afterwards and then finally returning home to take care of her ailing father. Her father Kouhei (Michio Hino), whose health is declining due to his love of sake, is worried that she won’t get married, and is determined to help her find a husband. Asami of course isn’t all about sexual gratification, and whilst she enjoys her trysts with her boss, is still looking for something with a deeper connection. Her co-worker Komako Izumida (Aoi Nakajima) on the other hand is looking for nothing more than a good time, and spends her days sneaking a drink at work and having sex in bathroom stalls. Of course, she soon makes a name for herself, and men seem to force themselves on her when they are alone on elevators and other secluded office locales. Things begin to change in Asami’s life when she meets a younger man who sells dyed chicks on the streets, and sex manic Komako, coming to the realization men are dogs, visits Asami’s home for birthday dinner and strikes up a relationship with her father Kouhei. Both women struggle to find the perfect balance between love and sex, but Asami finds herself conflicted about which man will provide her with all her worldly needs; her older, rich office boss who gratifies her daily, or the poor, young man who sells chicks on the street who offers his heart and love.

Visually, this is Masaru Konuma at his best. He doesn’t dwell and fetishize the sex, but creates poetic beauty instead, the height of which is a shot of Asami and the younger man having sex with hundreds of chicks flooding the floor around them. The composition of the frame, the visual metaphor the image represents, beauty like this doesn’t happen a lot in films featuring people having sex on a hardwood floor, but Konuma knows how to make gorgeous eroticism that has far more going on than just skin and boobs. Much of the film is shot guerilla style on the busy city streets, and this style of filmmaking that represents so much of what Pinku Eiga is creates an energy that is hard to simulate in a controlled environment. It’s also this guerilla style that helps to develop the isolating undertones that run through the film. The opening credits run over images of people inside their compartmentalized glass office prisons, the world around them watching, but not interacting.

On a narrative level, this film threw me for a loop. What started as a generic office sex film, lulling its viewer into erotic tranquility, quickly turns a 180 and by the end leaves your heart on the floor. Yes, this is a Roman Porno, but this isn’t a film about sex, it’s a film about love, and it’s that emotional connection it establishes that helps to leave you stunned by the time the credits roll. The duality between Asami and Komako and their mentalities between love and sex also helps to add to the gut punch at the end, as well as the duality between the male and female view of sexuality and eroticism, leading to a very voyeuristic and uncomfortable sex scene between Asami and her boss. Konuma doesn’t just present the sex to titillate, he uses it as a narrative device, and uses it to make his audience feel uncomfortable, and for the males, to make them feel shame for wanting to watch a film purely for the eroticism. This is quintessential Konuma bringing the Roman Porno film out of the adult theatre and into the art theatre. It transcends its original purpose, but that’s what he is a master of Pinku Eiga isn’t it.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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