The Pornographers (1966)

If the, er, family dynamic in Profound Desires of the Gods was kind of fucked, it’s not much better in the film Shohei Imamura made before it. Haru is a middle-aged widow in a relationship with her long-term boarder Ogata, but she’s concerned that her late husband disapproves (she thinks he’s reincarnated as the carp in their fish tank). On top of that there’s something kind of Oedipal between her and her son Koichi, while Ogata’s real objet d’affection seems to be her 15-year-old daughter Keiko. Ogata is also a manufacturer of 8mm porn films, and one of his films involves a schoolgirl rape fantasy in which one of Keiko’s uniforms is “borrowed” as a costume (the film itself stars a young retarded girl whose partner in the film is her own father). I mean, JESUS FUCK. IMDB tells me the film was released in the US in August 1966, which stuns me; not that I think IMDB is wrong necessarily, but because I just can’t imagine something this perverse being released there in 1966, even shorn of several minutes and (presumably) only showing in limited arthouse release…  Needless to say, the state of affairs Imamura depicts here (which he does with an awful lot of subdivision of the Scope frame using window/door frames, bars on windows, etc; he evidently fell in love with cutting the rectangle of the screen into smaller spaces) cannot exactly end well, and once Ogata gets sprung by the cops for peddling smut things really go downhill (parenthetically, how odd is it that I should see two films in fairly close succession—The Horse’s Mouth being the other—that both end with the protagonist on an unloosed houseboat drifting hell knows where?). Arguably The Pornographers is a lot longer than it really needed to be, but I still liked it; glad I noticed SBS were running it tonight and that I remembered to tune in. Imamura is proving to be one of my top belated discoveries of this year…


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