|This disturbing still from The Pornographers, directed by Shohei Imamura, shows the Mother and lover/landlady of Ogata just after she goes mad. The girl with the pins i her eyes in the photograph is her daughter, Keiko.|
The Pornographers (1966)
d. Shohei Imamura
Criterion Collection #207
The Pornographers was controversial upon original release in Japan, and it is very, very easy to see why. I must confess that I was personally shocked to see the scenario of a father raping his own retarded teen daughter- and filming it- being used in the service of light comedy/social satire. That was not what I expected when the film was described as "controversial." Such a scenario in this day and age is more likely to appear in a court room, where said father would be sentenced to life in prison.
|transgressive Japanese film director Shohei Imamura, worked for Ozu before he went out on his own.|
The main story of The Pornographers concerns low level pornography producer and local pimp Yoshimoto Ogata (played by Soichi Ozawa) and his relationship with beauty shop owner, and her 15 year old daughter, Keiko (played by Keiko Sakawa.) It's unclear to me whether he actually rapes her, or whether they drunken consensual sex, but Keiko's disclosure to her mother makes it sound like rape, and her reaction is to propose that Ogata marry Keiko. The above described mentally challenged daughter rape, and subsequent discussion among the maker and crew about the morality of such a scenario, is a mere incident, as is Ogata's arrest and prosecution, his bullying by local Yakuza, and his procuring a "virgin" for the deflowering by a decrepit local business tycoon.
It's important to make clear that while the narrative summary makes it sound like something by Lars Von Trier, The Pornographers IS a comedy, and treats all these subjects with a minimum of emotion. There is no actual depiction of sex or pornography, no nudity even, which makes the subjects even more shocking. I'd have no trouble vouching for the stream of transgressive 1960s Japanese film as being a high point of interest within the larger field of Japanese Literature and Cinema. Looking at the similarities and differences between their culture and ours- these films, by directors like Shohei Imamura and Nagisa Oshima.
These filmmakers are also of most interest to the Audience for this blog, people seeking information about Japanese film, mostly. There is no doubt in mind that the interest in these counter-cultural filmmakers from Japan is on the up tick due to more people being exposed to the films through streaming movie services.