Friday, April 09, 2010

Jouni Hokkanen: Pink Daydreams - Japanese Pinku Eiga (a lecture)

A lecture in the series Cinema and Sexuality organized by the Film Society of the Student Union of the University of Helsinki (HYY) at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 9 April 2010.

Pinku eiga is a Japanese soft core pornographic genre. Four criteria of the pinku eiga include: 1) there must be at least four sex scenes, 2) the duration is 60 min, 3) the film must be shot professionally on 16 mm or 35 mm film, 4) the film is destined to be exhibited in cinemas. The budget is remarkably small but there is considerable freedom for the film-maker as long as he follows the four criteria. There is no counterpart to the pinku eiga in the Western world. The special nature of the Japanese censorship must be observed. The display of primary sex organs and pubic hair is banned. The primary sex organs can be hidden with lamps, candles, and bottles. Censorship makes it necessary to use imagination.

In the history of the Japanese cinema the kabuki and the noh traditions were followed in the beginning. Until 1921 no women appeared on screen, and men played women's roles.The first screen kiss in Japanese cinema took place in 1946, and even then behind a paraply. Critics started to talk about kisu-eiga. Nudity and sex had not allowed on screen, except in health and hygiene films. In 1947 strip tease was launched in Tokyo, and the first strip tease films were made. Shintoho produced in the 1950s and the 1960s a cycle of documentary films on female pearl-divers. The first pinku eiga was Nikutai no ichiba (Flesh Market, Satoru Kobayashi, JP 1962).

The first wave of pinku eiga took place in 1964-1972. The popularity grew rapidly. Tetsuji Takechi's Hakujitsumu (Daydream, JP 1964) was important. The studios were small. In the cinemas, three pinku eigas were combined in one show. An important film was Nikutai no mon (Gate of Flesh, Seijun Suzuki, JP 1964).

Koji Wakamatsu started at Nikkatsu and launched his own Wakamatsu Studio. He became "the godfather of pinku". Black and white films were produced on a budget of under 4000 E. Wakamatsu was a co-producer of Nagisa Oshima's Ai no corrida. Wakamatsu is still going strong, and his new film Kyatapira (Caterpillar, JP 2010) was screened at Berlin Film Festival this year. Masao Adachi was an important screenwriter for Nagisa Oshima and Koji Wakamatsu.

Brothels were banned in Japan in 1957. In one pinku film a prostitute tries to break a record of how many men she can receive during the final day. The second wave of pinku eiga was the Nikkatsu roman porno era 1971–1982. This wave lasted until the breakthrough of the home video.

The AV (Adult Video), cheap video pornography, hit pinku eiga hard. New independent companies entered the market. The revenue of pinku eiga plummeted. The Roman X series provided more nudity but no more sex. Nikkatsu ceased to produce pinku eiga in 1988.

In the 1990s four pinku directors debuted, Kazuhiro Sano, Toshiki Satō, Takahisa Zeze, and Hisayasu Satō. They worked in a spirit of desperation aware that their each film could be the last. They ignored the audience and made experimental, difficult and sombre films. They were dubbed the "four heavenly kings of pinku". In Hisayasu Sato's films, there are displays of nihilistic, brutal fantasy, rape scenes that can be seen as accounts of extreme alienation.

In 2003, 287 Japanese films were released in Japan, 89 of which were pinku eiga. Besides, 60 older pinku eiga films were exhibited. The pinku eiga budget is 3,5 million yen, or, ca 27.000 E. The pinku eiga budget has remained the same since the 1960s. The pinku eiga movie is shot in 3-4 days. For instance, a movie like The Molester Train is shot from a fixed camera position, the takes are long, 6 reels of film are available, no retakes are possible.

Pinku eiga is screened in specialized cinemas. Films like Hatsukoi: Jigoku-hen (Nanami), Onibaba, or Suna no onna (Woman of the Dunes) are not screened in pinku eiga cinemas, which is why they are not pinku eiga.

In Gekko kamen, the nude action heroine appears in a parody of a manga about a boarding school where a pupil who has committed an error becomes the target of the teachers' sexual harassment.

The censorship issue is complicated. Presentation of full nudity is forbidden; upper body and the backside may be displayed. The foundation is the paragraph on hygiene in the penal code: it is forbidden to disseminate indecency. There is the question of the Japanese etiquette. Social nudity has been natural in bath-houses and in the self-humiliation programmes of television. Nikutai no ichiba (Flesh Market, Satoru Kobayashi, JP 1962) brought topless nudity to the screen. It was seen as a display of bad taste. Foreign film gave inspiration, such as Blowup with pubic hair. Visual censorship was born: with blurring, digital obscuring, black bars, and white spheres. Objects such as candles and vases could be used. In Nikkatsu, flesh-coloured tape was introduced to cover the pubic area. - In AV (Adult Video) sex organs are pixelized. In Japan this method is called "mosaic".

The restrictions work in several stages. 1) There are the police and the prosecutors. 2) There are the customs and the export administration. 3) There is the Eirin, the Japanese film rating board, the self-control organization of the film industry which is the most strict of them all. It is a club of the six biggest companies. - International co-productions have been launched in order to prevent the film to be wrecked by the Eirin. - Masudo Ikeda's Dedicato al mare Egeo (IT/JP 1979) was, however, caught by the customs and subjected to 52 censorship cuts. - Gradual relaxation of the restrictions: "If pubic hair is presented in its natural surroundings, it is permissible to put it on display". - More restrictions on teenage references, licking, posters. - In the 1990s the legislation was relaxing, inspired by foreign films such as La belle noiseuse and Orlando, both depicting pubic hair.

Sex cinemas have vanished elsewhere, but in Japan they still exist. There are still some 130 sex cinemas in Japan.

Clips: - Hatsujô kateikyôshi: sensei no aijiru (The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Lanai, Mitsuru Meike, JP 2003). - Hana to hebi (Flower and Snake, Takashi Ishii, JP 2004). - Taiji ga mitsuryô suru toki (The Embryo Hunts in Secret, Koji Wakamatsu, JP 1966). - Tenshi no kôkotsu (Ecstasy of the Angels, Koji Wakamatsu, JP 1972). - Hitozuma korekutâ (Wife Collector, Hisayasu Sato, JP 1985). - Gekko kamen (Moon Mask Rider, Yukihiro Sawada, JP 1981). - Kinbaku (Kinbaku - sielun solmuja, Jouni Hokkanen, FI 2010).

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