Sunday, June 26, 2011

REVIEW: Sayuri Ichijo: Wet Lust

一条さゆり 濡れた欲情 (Ichijo Sayuri: Nureta Yokujo)

Released: 1972

Tatsumi Kumashiro

Sayuri Ichijo
Hiroko Isayama
Kazuko Shirakawa
Go Awazu
Akira Takahashi

Running time:69 min.

Reviewed by Marc Saint-Cyr

Tatsumi Kumashiro is generally regarded as one of the most interesting and rewarding directors in the world of Japanese pink film, having solidly established himself within Nikkatsu in the 1970s. I have had the pleasure of reviewing two of his works in the past, both from 1973: "Yakuza Justice: Erotic Code of Honor," a highly entertaining crime drama with a renegade monk as its anti-hero, and "Lovers are Wet," a portrait of modern youth set in a small coastal town. Released one year previous, "Sayuri Ichijo: Wet Lust" showcases the attentiveness to both authenticity and cinematic inventiveness that Kumashiro would put to such good use in those later films.

The story focuses on a small variety theatre in Osaka that specializes in erotic acts. Its chief attraction is the famed striptease artist Sayuri Ichijo (playing herself), who receives generous amounts of attention from the media and her male admirers alike. Another woman who works there is the ambitious young Harumi (Hiroko Isayama), whose goal to move up and challenge Sayuri’s position as the theatre’s most sought-after performer is delayed by a few complications in her own life. Her boyfriend, Daikichi (Go Awazu), is released from prison after three years, but the couple’s reunion is somewhat soured by her confession that she saw other men during his absence. She in fact continues to maintain a sexual relationship with one – her yakuza pimp Isamu (Akira Takahashi), who violently clashes with Daikichi and finds himself increasingly unable to control Harumi. As she deals with police charges of obscenity and the ensuing fines, Sayuri prepares to retire from the stage – a development that her young rival plans to take advantage of accordingly.

With "Sayuri Ichijo: Wet Lust," Kumashiro effectively utilizes the “slice of life” aesthetic recognizable from his other films. Here, it is fascinating to see it at work in the context of the variety theatre and its alluring performers. Nicely enhancing this aspect is Sayuri Ichijo’s presence as herself; her acts shown in the film (including, perhaps most memorably, one in which she dribbles melted candle wax onto portions of her body) are very likely ones she would have performed as part of her regular profession, allowing viewers access to the same type of spectacle so enjoyed by her live audiences. Other scenes, such as the ones in which she tends to her burned body in a small plastic tub after the show, confronts Harumi and fends off incessant bullies, allow her to project an oddly dignified persona and a maturity that both cleanly fit her status as an experienced, beloved performer. One of the film’s most interesting scenes is her emotional address to her faithful followers just before she begins her final show, possessing all the gratitude and sincerity of an internationally admired film star.

As Harumi, Hiroko Isayama gets most of the allotted screen time and serves as a nice counterbalance to Ichijo-san, so refreshingly spunky and mischievous is her performance. Whether ordering Daikichi to rape Sayuri, squatting and pissing in an empty alleyway, starting a fight with a fellow performer over her dissatisfaction with their lesbian act and having sex with Isamu in an outdoor amusement park ride, she continually proves herself to be an unruly source of conflict and attention. Additionally, she participates in the bulk of the film’s sex scenes – which, as with the other recent Kimstim releases of Kumashiro’s films, are censored by annoying black boxes that every so often appear on the screen.

"Sayuri Ichijo: Wet Lust" ultimately offers quite a lot to the curious viewer: a fairly compelling rivalry plotline; fun frequently unpredictable characters; great bits of outrageous, bawdy humor and a big enough dose of documentary sensibility to ground its world firmly in the reality that was 1970s Japan. Once again, Kumashiro-san proves himself to be one of the more rewarding facets of Japanese sex cinema’s long history.

Note: there are currently several existing titles for this particular film. Along with the one I decided to use for this review, there is also "Following Desire," "Wet Desire," "Ichijo’s Wet Lust," "Ichijo’s Wet Desire," "Drenched Passion" and "Sayuri Ichijo: Moist Desire."

Read more by Marc Saint-Cyr at his blog

1 comment:

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