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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 22 Mar 2024, 18:46
by grim_tales
Lone Wolf and Cub - Sword of Vengeance (Japan, 1972): 4.5/5

The Criterion transfer looked very good (BD), I was used to the older DVD subtitles that made it clearer who was talking, and sometimes they had notes explaining the meanings of old Japanese terms.

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 25 Mar 2024, 15:02
by HungFist
Nurses' Journal: Nasty File (看護婦日記 わいせつなカルテ) (Japan, 1980) [TV] – 1.5/5
One wouldn’t suspect Shogoro Nishimura was once a fine director, later reduced to a Roman Porno vending machine, watching this soulless soft-core comedy about a nurse and a taxi driver. Shagging and white uniforms follow, with lame comedy in between. That being said, I did not see that nunchaku fight coming, nor the rest of the kung fu action that dominates the film’s last ten minutes. That's something at least.

Women's Native Ground: Bitches' Chain (おんな番外地 鎖の牝犬) (Japan, 1965) [35mm] – 3/5
This was Toei’s first women in prison film, released in wake of the first two Abashiri Prison movies. It was intended to ride the popularity of the Takakura series, but it was also a product of Toei’s B-film line, which aimed to produce more erotically charged companion films to be screened with the studio’s A-films (mainly yakuza pictures). The official synopsis talks about “the joys, sorrows, and abnormal sex in a women’s world concealed from men’s eyes”, which is a good enough description as long as one doesn’t expect steam beyond a tiny bit of nudity and lesbianism. Mako Midori is great as a young woman sent behind bars for murdering treacherous boyfriend Tatsuo Umemiya. The film then unfolds in a mixture of present day prison scenes and flashbacks detailing how she came to shove a knife into Umemiya’s guts. The “men are all pigs” and “patriarchal system is corrupt” message found in many later genre films is very much present here, however, at the same time the film gives an almost motherly portrayal of the prison’s all-female staff who genuinely care for the prisoners (except for one sadistic bitch). Most of the fellow prisoners also turn out to be good people, making this more of a girls’ drama than an outright exploitation film.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 04 Apr 2024, 15:24
by HungFist
Gambler Biography (博徒列伝) (Japan, 1968) [TV] – 2.5/5
A mediocre all star ninkyo film with almost every notable genre actor from Koji Tsuruta to Tomisaburo Wakayama, Saburo Kitajima, Minoru Oki and Junko Fuji crammed into one picture. Ken Takakura even gets a fanfare upon his entrance. It frankly begins to feel slightly tedious, especially when there's nothing particularly memorable or touching about the film's storyline; however, we do get a good gambling scene and several bursts of grittier than expected violence throughout the film. Also very surprising for a hero played by Tsuruta, the film's protagonist is really letting the bad guys have it, bashing heads against rocks, cutting off fingers, and delivering a few extra kicks and punches at every opportunity.

Return to Women’s Native Ground (続 おんな番外地) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] – 3.5/5
A superior sequel with Mako Midori returning as the same character she played in the first film. She only spends the first 15 minutes behind bars, after which the film turns into a touching tale of a woman trying start again in a cruel world that doesn’t forgive women with a past. Things get even worse when she’s requested to meet a former cellmate’s boyfriend (Kenji Imai), who turns out to be the sleaziest blackmailer scum ever seen in a Toei film. Her only consolation is a bunch other former prisoners from the first film, now released and all trying to start over. This is quite a gripping film, at times emotionally maddeningly manipulative in her downfall, but effective all the same. Midori is fantastic in her role, even if a little too cute to convince as a killer, and the sequences with the discriminated women bonding have a very interesting feminist vibe – at times the film almost forgets men exist at all. At the same time, however, there’s a bit of added entertainment in form of some comic relief (Toru Yuri and Ryoichi Tamagawa), and a prison bath scene with plenty of blink-or-you’ll-miss-it nudity by a group of student and housewife extras Toei drafted with a newspaper announcement promising 7000 yen for a day’s nude work! The film was followed by a loosely connected third entry, called The Pretty Jade, reportedly with no prison scenes at all and Midori playing a different character.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 14 Apr 2024, 01:16
by grim_tales
Princess Mononoke (Japan, 1997): 4.25/5

Powerful animation with ecology themes, where a boy is infected by a demon boar (?) after it had attacked his village, then has to protect a forest from humans who are making weapons in an ironworks. One of Miyazaki's earlier works.

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 16 Apr 2024, 23:03
by grim_tales
The Boy and the Heron (Japan, 2023): 4.5/5

Really good.

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 22 Apr 2024, 10:53
by HungFist
Blackmail (恐喝) (Japan, 1963) [35mm] – 3/5
A pretty good, if somewhat forgettable, neo noir with Ken Takakura as a young yakuza punk who finds himself alone in the night after two yakuza gangs team up to hunt him down to recover a stolen document. There are some thrilling scenes and stylish cinematography, but the storyline and direction are a bit too basic to sustain momentum throughout the 91 minute running time. Seeing Takakura, best known for his later chivalrous roles, play a selfish blackmailer punk who’s too full of himself, is probably the film’s best selling point. Bad girl Yoko Mihara makes a brief appearance as the anti-hero’s sexy girlfriend. Director Yusuke Watanabe was no stranger to yakuza films, but his most memorable pictures came in the mid 60s when he directed Mako Midori in some of Toei’s best early erotic B-films, such as Two Bitches (1964).

Affair at Twilight (たそがれの情事) (Japan, 1972) [VoD] – 3/5
A melancholic early Roman Porno picture with a yakuza film undercurrent. Kazuko Shirakawa plays a sexually frustrated housewife with recurring erotic dreams of being assaulted by someone more masculine (and deformed!) than her weakling husband. Her fantasies come knocking on the door when a young, violent gang member (Nobutaka Masatomi) invades her home one afternoon. The two become engaged in a love relationship that blurs the line between consensual and forced, and must be kept secret at any cost. This is a very good looking production carrying over the fantastic art direction from Nikkatsu's 60s mainstream cinema. It also manages to craft characters that feel more human and have at least a bit more psychological depth than most films of its kind. One of the characters being a volatile, tormented gangster also helps keeping things more interesting than for example the Apartment Wife series, which this movie admittedly borrows from. Interestingly enough, while the plot is a dead-serious melodrama affair, there’s also a more (darkly) humoristic layer ridiculing masculine incompetence. This type of quality was typical to director Shogoro Nishimura's 60s youth and gangster pictures, whose influence is clearly evident here, but would be lost over the years as he turned himself into a Roman Porno vending machine. This was only his 2nd Roman Porno picture, following Nov. 1971’s Apartment Wife: Affair in the Afternoon that had kicked off the production line seven weeks earlier.

P.S. the film's ending is more fun than what is described in official (pre-production, I believe) synopsis, suggesting this may be another Roman Porno picture that was partially re-written as they filmed, seemingly for the better.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 22 Apr 2024, 23:21
by grim_tales
Monster (Japan, 2023): 4.25/5

A young boy says a teacher at school hurt him, but there are differing points of view and his mum tries to find out what happened (the teacher, and his Mum), what is the real truth?

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 27 Apr 2024, 00:48
by grim_tales
My Young Auntie (HK, 1980): 4/5

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 30 Apr 2024, 04:14
by chazgower01
City Hunter (シティーハンター) (Japan, 2024) Netflix movie 3.5/5
directed by Yuichi Sato
It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s fun and kinda stylish and full of chauvinistic humor you’d never see in an American production anymore… so I liked it. It helps that two of my favorite Japanese Gravure Idols are in it, the super cute Asuka Hanamura as the cosplay girl the bad guys are after (it's a big role for her!) and Moemi Katayama (who’s now 33, but still looks great) as the fishnet wearing assassin, Scorpion aka Miss Sweater Melons (lol) … also with Misato Morita (excellent as Kaoru Kuroki in the Naked Director TV series) as Ryo’s side kick (sister of his murdered partner).
Ryohei Suzuki seems to have the right charismatic mix to play Ryo, able to go from serious to deadly to goofy in a moments notice and fights acrobatically. And the city of Tokyo looks amazing in this.
I certainly like it better than the Wong Jing/Jackie Chan version… though it has it’s goofy moments as well, here there’s still plenty of fighting, and gun play and blood and action.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 06 May 2024, 02:48
by grim_tales
The Heroic Ones (HK, 1970): 3.5/5

I think this was the first Shaw Bros. film I saw back in the day, feels a bit long at 120 mins, good for the time it was made though. Hampered by poor media presentation of the old HK DVD (Letterbox transfer and poor subtitles)

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 06 May 2024, 16:37
by HungFist
Bad City (バッド・シティ) (Japan, 2022) [TV] – 2.5/5
Ten years ago Toei released the hugely underwhelming movie “25” in celebration of the 25th anniversary of V-Cinema. Now Toei is attempting something a tad more ambitious in celebration of genre superstar Hitoshi Ozawa’s 60th birthday. Ozawa stars as a detective thrown behind bars while investigating an underworld conflict involving Japanese and Korean gangsters with hidden links to political figures. Luckily for him, he’s soon out on parole thanks to an untouchable prosecutor who puts together a secret crime fighting unit. This is a rather passable crime film resting on Ozawa’s charismatic shoulders, though one with a plot so complicated that pen and paper may come in handy. It’s also a basher picture with action choreographer gone 2nd time director Kensuke Sonomura marching Ozawa through armies of enemies, many of them armed with baseball bats. And then there’s Tak Sakaguchi, who is the first of the film’s many problems. While Ozawa’s fisticuffs fighting is at least somewhat in line with the film’s gritty crime drama positioning, Sakaguchi doesn’t seem to belong in the same picture with his lighting fast fighting. The same can be said about the hero’s colleague Masanori Mimoto, whose fighting fluctuates between pro and amateur. And then there’s the ending where the film knocks itself out with not one, but two of the dumbest, most clichéd and nonsensical closing scenes in recent memory. It’s still a very watchable film despite all that, but could and should have been better.

Secret Information (密告) (Japan, 1968) [Streaming] – 4/5
Former real life gang boss turned actor Noboru Ando stars in this little known revenge noir, which is one of his best films. Ando plays a bitter gangster just out of prison, quietly searching for the traitor who sent him behind bars eight years earlier. Director Masaharu Segawa is best known for comedy and musical films. He only made three gangster action pictures in his career, all of them highly stylized, and this one coming out as the best. There’s an evident European new wave and Jean Pierre Melville vibe to the film, which is almost experimental in its editing, sound design and minimalism. That being said, it’s still a Toei gangster picture with the expected gunplay, car chases, and a shade of romance. Ando himself fares quite well in a role that doesn’t require big acting or lots of dialogue, but rather draws from his natural charisma and scarred face.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 16 May 2024, 00:23
by grim_tales
Wu Xia (2011, BD): 4/5

This was a good movie. Unfortunately I didn't realise it seems to have been discontinued/is OOP

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 19 May 2024, 19:39
by grim_tales
Killer Clans (HK, 1976): 3/5

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 21 May 2024, 10:10
by grim_tales
Golden Swallow (HK, 1968): 3.5/5

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 23 May 2024, 21:47
by grim_tales
Mr. Vampire (HK, 1985): 4/5

The Eureka Blu Ray is very good, a fun movie. The climax with the final confrontation, seems very rushed and jammed into the last few minutes however.
One plot thread is very similar to A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)
Sometimes I felt the subtitles disappeared a bit too quickly to read but they're well done :)

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 27 May 2024, 00:26
by Markgway
If I ever get the chance I'll improve the subtitles.

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 27 May 2024, 16:07
by HungFist
Powerful Sex Biography: I Give You Death (性豪列伝 死んで貰います) (Japan, 1972) –1.5/5
A Roman Porno comedy mismarked with a title that sounds like a sexier version of a Ken Takakura film (this is particularly evident in the Japanese title, which only adds the word “sex” to an otherwise stereotypical yakuza film title). As it turns out, however, this childish slapstick affair has rather little to do with gangster pictures, other than an odd reference here and there. Roman Porno’s early super star Kazuko Shirakawa plays a woman whose sexual energy has worn down every man she ever met, including the brand new husband. This man however is different from the rest: rather than admitting defeat he retreats to train his sexual strength for a rematch. Low-brow comedy complete with constant Looney Tunes sound effects and even self-referential Nikkatsu jokes follow. A comparison could probably be made to Norifumi Suzuki's most childish sex comedies at Toei, though even those films appear sophisticated in comparison. Might work to some, just don’t expect what the title promises.

Adulterous Wife: Dizzy (不倫する人妻 眩暈) (Japan, 2002) [TV] – 3.5/5
Yuji Tajiri’s sophomore effort Office Lady: Love Juice (1999) established him as one of the young talents of early 2000s new Japanese cinema, only within pink films. This picture is even better, an existential urban drama with just enough sex to pass off it as a pink production. Yumeka Sasaki plays as a woman whose husband (Kazuhiro Sano) is left unemployed. To make ends meet, she starts a part time job in a company that also employs her ex-lover. Contrary to genre conventions, however, she does not immediately jump into bed with the man. The guy is having an affair with another office lady, which much to the protagonist’s own confusion sparks a jealous reaction in her. Meanwhile her husband, whose pride has been crushed by the job loss, grows ever more distant. There’s a lot of very good cinematography in this, particularly long tracking shots on the streets of Shinjuku. The script is solid as well with a good storyline and interesting characters penned by Naoko Nishida (Mitsuru Meike’s Bitter Sweet was also written by her). While Sasaki is no Meryl Streep, she’s pretty good at acting low-key scenes with her body and eyes, whereas actor / director Sano is actually a genuinely fine actor. Overall this is a very solid effort in the hard-to-define, yet to be titled sub-genre of late 90s / early 2000s Japanese cinema popularized by the likes of Hiroshi Ishikawa, Shunji Iwai, Jun Ichikawa, and Ryuichi Hiroki in the mainstream field. Those of you who still don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine Lost in Translation but with a lower budget and Scarlett Johansson having a graphic sex scene with Bill Murray, then Murray also going to bed with the hooker one lonely night, and also Giovanni Ribisi banging Anna Faris through the back door in one scene, and you’re kind of close enough.

Reviewed here is the unaltered original version, which was originally released in theatres under the same title with an R18 rating, however, has later been downgraded to R15.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 05 Jun 2024, 01:10
by grim_tales
Return of the One Armed Swordsman (HK, 1969): 4.25/5

Expected a retread of the first one, was pleasantly surprised but Wang Yu's character is a kind of superman now, going up against crazy villains like "Woman with a Thousand Hands" and "Stealth King"

Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 06 Jun 2024, 08:16
by HungFist
Being Assaulted (襲られる) (Japan, 1977) – 2/5
A newlywed couple honeymooning in a small coastal town witness the rape of a young woman, which brings back memories of the wife’s own tragic past. By coincidence, her own assailant from the past also happens to reside in the same town, only he no longer remembers her. There are some points of interest in this film, including a near masterful ending and Nikkatsu’s rising female writer Machiko Nasu in charge of the script, but the production can’t overcome Akira Kato's haphazard direction. Were it helmed by someone with a better eye for human psychology and less emphasis on sleazy porn sequences (such as Toshiya Fujita, who brought Nasu’s previous script, A Girl’s Pleasure: Man Hunting, to screen), this could’ve been a fine, provocative film. As it stands, it’s mainly worth sitting through for the ending which is surprisingly similar to Angel Heart (1987), only a decade earlier.

Night Butterflies (三人の女 夜の蝶) [Japan, 1971] [Streaming] – 3.5/5
Unknown to most overseas audiences, in the 60s and early 70s Japan there was an entire (untitled) genre of nocturnal dramas focusing on the lives of hostesses and hustlers. These films served as cinematic ballads, and indeed, were often based on one. Their sound and aesthetics were instantly recognizable from neon lights, colourful night club interiors and pop songs performed in front of camera by popular singers. This film is a superior late entry into the genre with Chieko Matsubara, Meiko Kaji and Yoko Yamamoto as three hostesses working in the Shinjuku night, which is infested with playboys, gangsters and people trying to forget their past. The film doesn't stray far from the usual formula; however, it is better made than most, with good characters and an all around solid execution. Matsubara is the lead, a countryside girl who relocates to Tokyo after being betrayed by a lover and immediately after brutalized by thug Tatsuya Fuji. They later meet in Tokyo, with Fuji now regretful of what he did to her. Speaking of which, it's not in every film that you see chaste 60s princess Matsubara raped in the opening scene. Indeed, the times were changing and it’s perhaps a bit surprising she was still on board with Nikkatsu as late as early 1971, even if the mentioned scene is quite tame by 70s standards. Oh and another scene that must be mentioned: chubby child comedian Attack Ichiro fooling around in bed with a beautiful naked hostess. I don't even dare to imagine how this scene would go down with hyper-sensitive modern (Western) audiences.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 21 Jun 2024, 16:50
by HungFist
The Dream Girl (裸でだっこ) (Japan, 1970) [TV] – 2.5/5
Forgettable, but entirely watchable sexy comedy with Mari Atsumi in various levels of undress. Atsumi stars as a female member of a youth group pulling out various conman stunts to make money. Gamera director Noriaki Yuasa packs more punch, laughs and nudity into this movie than his earlier Atsumi film, the thoroughly dull Your Favourite (1969).

A Diary of A Woman Doctor (女医の愛欲日記) (Japan, 1973) [35mm] - 3.5/5
There is something beautiful about theatre full of spectators leaving the cinema in bewilderment: what the hell did we just see? Death by Hanging screenwriter Doten Fukao's directorial debut was conceived as a "Toei New Porno", an obscure production line putting out roughly 50 minute sex romps budgeted at mere 5 million yen (less than Roman Porno, which were already less than the standard Toei feature). The line was established in 1973 to compensate for film print shortage in lower tier Toei theatres caused by the extended runs of the Battles without Honor and Humanity films in urban areas, and some of the films were only screened in rural areas and went largely unrecorded in film history. Fukao's film is a progressively bizarre tale of a female doctor who leaves her home and husband (Fumio Watanabe in 30 second role) behind to attend a medical seminar in Kyoto, but in fact has reserved the weekend to indulge in sexual pleasures. First comes the casual stuff like stabbing a gigolo with syringe during sex for kicks, then the goat… oh boy, I’m not going to spoil what happens to the goat, but I will say after the scene there’s an existential dialogue about the goat’s existence. And then she eats a bouquet of roses! Supposedly inspired by real events (what the hell?), Fukao makes the most of his limited resources with tight framing, intoxicating use of the yellow color, an intriguing story that probably no one fully gets on first viewing, and a bizarrely big name cast featuring genre and art-house actors in one scene cameos, such as Etsuko Ichihara discussing the goat’s existence. And holy shit the ending shot left the entire theatre gasping, trying to figure out what the hell had they just witnessed. To quote Cinema Vera’s old introduction text for this film, it’s up to you to decide if this is a masterpiece among cult films, or a failure pretending to be avant-garde?

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 28 Jun 2024, 16:24
by HungFist
Attack! (襲え) (Japan, 1978) [35mm] – 3/5
This rare picture is a bit of a Holy Grail for 70s Nikkatsu aficionados as it remains action rebel Yukihiro Sawada's only Roman Porno film that is almost impossible to see. Not plain impossible, however, as the National Film Archive has a 35mm print. The film itself is quite alright, but not as good as Sawada's previous two Roman Porno films, the Sam Peckinpah pastiche Assault! (1976) and the mistitled alienated youth drama Rape Frenzy: 5 Minutes Before Graduation (1977). Attack! feels much like a mixture of those two movies - a youth film combined with a revenge thriller - but isn't quite as effective. Erina Miyai gets a nice bad girl lead role as a mysterious woman who blackmails three no-good youngsters into kidnapping a businessman’s daughter on her behalf. Some rough stuff follows, but this shouldn’t be really compared to the violent pink wave of the mid/late 70s too much despite Nikkatsu’s best marketing efforts (it’s worth noting the poster depicts a scene that isn’t in the film!), as Sawada was more a youth action director. It’s a solid film with a nice rock soundtrack and occasional humoristic touches, even if it lacks the vigour of 5 Minutes Before Graduation and the incredible bullet ballet ending of Assault!

Hurry on a Sail to Dream (太陽は見た) (Japan, 1970) [TV] – 3.5/5
A delightfully twisted, Sun Tribe influenced psycho drama with Daiei's electric jellyfish Mari Atsumi. The opening scene sees caretaker Atsumi having sex with her bed-ridden father. Young bloke Toru Minegishi, who witnesses the act, then deems it fair game to rape the spoiled goods. He only learns later that there’s more to the family relationship than meets the eye, and that her affection is more of the economic than romantic kind. Atsumi and Minegishi start working together to make the old geezer expire sooner, and fall in love while at it. This is where audiences with modern sensibilities probably start checking out, if they had not done so already. However, the power balance here isn't quite what one might expect as Atsumi constantly has the psychological upper hand over the rough but boyishly naïve Minegishi. Somewhat similar in tone to Masumura's equally enjoyable Atsumi film The Hot Little Girl (1970), this is a solid sociopaths in love tale with a touch of Sun Tribe influence to themes and scenery. Also perhaps worth noting, Atsumi who had a tendency to tease but not show much, goes topless quite a few times here, though briefly each time.

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Re: What asian film/series have you just seen.. marks out of 5

Posted: 05 Jul 2024, 15:18
by HungFist
Ten Tigers of Kwangtung (Hong Kong, 1980) [BD] – 3/5
A somewhat lesser Chang Cheh kung fu festival saved by loads of entertaining and very well lensed fighting. There's just the right amount of dynamic camera movement while simultaneously keeping everything ultra clear. The same thing can be said about the super convoluted revenge / conspiracy / historical political storyline where characters come and go at such pace that it's initially unclear who are supposed to be the heroes and who are the villains, let alone who is the film’s main character. Oddly enough this confusion works to the film's benefit as it makes an otherwise pretty dry storyline a bit more intriguing.

A College Girl's Affairs (女子大生失踪事件 熟れた匂い) (1974) [35mm] - 4/5
Born from the success of jitsuroku yakuza films (whose extended runs forced Toei to produce more films for waiting lower tier theatres), it is perhaps only logical that Toei New Porno also soon delved into the true account crime territory. This film is based on the 1973 disappearance / murder of a Rikkyo University female student. The suspect was her professor at the university, who committed suicide with his wife and two daughters a month later. The girl’s body wasn’t found until six months later buried in the outskirts of Tokyo. Adding to the notoriety, the university were aware of the tragedy after the suspect’s somewhat cryptic confessions, but refrained from informing the police in fear of scandal and how the suspect’s suicidal wife would react. A College Girl's Affairs provides a near ingenious interpretation of what MIGHT have happened. The film positions itself somewhere between reality and fiction, being either a fictionalized take on a true account, or a fictional tale that constantly references a true crime (being familiar with the true story is essential for appreciating the film, as it takes known facts, twists them around, and comes a full circle in unexpectedly clever ways). Doten Fukao’s script mixes human existentialism with a non-linear who-did-it plot (here all of her lovers are suspects, and they’re all university professors gathering together to discuss her disappearance!), brought to screen in wicked fashion by Teruo Ishii’s AD Misao Arai, who said he wanted to make a film where everyone was crazy. The film does have its porno trappings and less inspired patches, not to mention being a questionable production from the start, but it’s a fascinating piece of filmmaking with strong acting performances and an unforgettable ending. And holy fucking shit what a soundtrack courtesy of the psychedelic rock band Datetenryu!

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