The Pornographers (1966), or Somebody Please Wake Me Up

28 08 2009

Japan always has plenty to offer in the world of international cinema, but much of its post-war art has been dominated by a few select names like Kurosawa, Ozu, and Suzuki. Rarely on the surfacedo we see any other players in this tumultuous period of the 50s and 60s who seemed to add anything of merit to the proceedings. But if you take a closer look than just what your community college course will tell you about Japanese film history through your own research, you’ll find a whole generation of Japanese filmmakers who, in many ways, defined the generation of dangerous, thought-provoking directors just as much as the Big Three. Today’s film is heavy, amusing, surreal, and anything but ordinary. It’s by the amazing Shohei Imamura, and it is one of the best Japanese movies I’ve seen in a while.

Based on a novel by Akiyuki Nosaka, the title is exactly right; this movie is about pornographers. Specifically, it’s one pornographer in particular named Mr Ogata. He lives a strange life and has strange problems, most of which are caused by his own twisted behavior. He has a tormented wife, an ambitious young step-son, and a step-daughter he is a little too attracted to. He is making nudie flicks on the sly so the local mob won’t interrupt and ask for their cut. And his wife’s dead ex-husband is haunting them in the form of a household pet. It’s not a very good setup over at his house, and things go from bad, to worse, to bizarre when he asks for his step-daughter’s hand in marriage! Whoa!

As weird and creepy as that sounds, the walls of reality begin slipping from the movie as time goes along, so the movie begins as a somewhat dry and dark comedy and ends up as a surreal and frightening statement of personal and universal truth that really evokes a sense of bewilderment that I’ve rarely felt watching a movie. It’s a movie that defies any logic you put to it, because it runs the gamut so much I can’t even put it in any particular genre. It’s somewhat a comedy, somewhat a surrealist experiment, somewhat a drama, and somewhat a twisted forerunner to Ghost Dad! It’s all these things in one, and I was totally impressed by how well it was all balanced.

Imamura was a man who could look into the heart of man and take it for what it really was, which was imperfect and fractal. The Pornographers is like a waking nightmare; it’s the height of the perfection of imperfection, a movie that perfectly describes how fucked up we are using the strange landscape of the mind to put it into perspective. Imamura takes seemingly innocuous images like a fish to make us feel uneasy about everything we thought we knew about these characters. And even there, we’re never sure of anything. On one level, this is just a disjointed about a porno director looking to expand his business under the nose of the Yakuza and get the younger version of his wife to show her a good time beneath the sheets. Can it be that easy, though, after all the strange things that seem to happen?

I don’t know if  you or the rest of the world will, but I loved this film. It is something that modern movies need to take note of; it’s exotic and truly bizarre, not because it looks better, but because that’s the only way the story can be told. It’s a truly ingenious movie that needs to be seen to be fully understood. Imamura was a great director, and I hope this lives on as a testament to the terrifying and hilarious images that were in his extremely creative cranium. I give The Pornographers 10 freaky fish out of 10. This is something special, and I hope you watch it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Tomorrow is Bren’s birthday, so if you have any delightful wishes to give to my better half, feel free to shoot them out here! I don’t know what movie I’ll be doing tomorrow, but I’ll be sure to do something really nice; just for you!!!

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