The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai: Politics in Pink

November 14, 2008 at 4:47 am (Cinema, Kiran David)

 

 

Japanese erotic cinema, known as Pink Cinema or as Pinku Eiga in Japan, has always been an interesting genre for many reasons.

 

Beginning sometime in the 60’s, and still flourishing, it is essentially soft core porn, about an hour in length, generally shot in 35mm, with a stipulated number of sex scenes popping in with almost clockwork precision. Until recently, pubic hair and genitals were a no-no and were often fogged, pixilated or composed to conceal. Unlike anywhere else in the world, the directors of these films have artistic ambitions and hidden agendas which they weave into the narrative, so that for the attentive viewer there is more to see than the obvious.

 

Another trait of this genre is that it is treated purely as a consumer product and is most often junked once it finishes its run. Few of them leave the shores of Japan in search of a wider audience. Some films that do go abroad have their titles changed from the obviously lurid to politer versions.

 

However, some films have survived time, especially the works of Masaru Konuma, Tatsumi Kumashiro, Noboru Tanaka and Seiichi Fukuda, working within an erotic frame and very often using fetishes that cater to the Japanese male. Remarkable directors like Nagisa Oshima, Koji Wakamatsu and Shoei Imamura have worked political themes through seemingly erotic films, without forsaking formal rigor. Many young Japanese directors who worked in this idiom have also graduated to making more important films.

 

More recently, in the 90’s, Takahisa Zeze, Kazuhiro Sano, Toshiki Sato and most importantly Hisayasu Sato, known as the Four Devils, have been doing interesting work within the confines of the genre, often going beyond its limitations.

 

Some of these films are visually striking; some, while subverting the idiom, are works that are thematically interesting; and some, as in the films of Hisayasu Sato, are disturbing.

 

The most current crop of directors, post the Four Devils, includes Mitsuru Meike, whose film The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai is the film I’d like to look at.

 

Meike’s film is a bit of an odd-ball, released originally in 2003 under the title Horny Home Tutor: Teacher’s Love Juice. The film is about a gormless role-playing call-girl who, during a shootout, gets a bullet in her head that lodges itself in a part of her brain. Overnight she becomes extremely intelligent, discussing philosophy and mathematics with academicians. Thrown into the mix are Korean agents, Middle East arms dealers, war footage, George Bush and a cloned finger of Bush that can trigger off a nuclear holocaust.

 

With its domestic success, the director got permission to expand the film to a feature- length of about 95 minutes and changed its title to The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai. The film was sent to festivals in 2005 and gained some sort of appreciation and cult status.

 

While visually not as interesting as the work of some of the previously mentioned Pink directors, its take on the politics of George Bush is quite bizarre. With TV channels devoting excessive time to even the most criminal of politicians, this film puts the king of them all in the place he deserves to be. Besides appearing on a TV screen as a cut-out Japanese-spouting face attached to a body, his cloned finger with the US flag painted on it violates Sachiko Hanai’s privates in a futile search for something, not unlike American antics in Iraq. The images of Bush reduce him to the right-wing Christian cretin he really is, which even Michael Moore could not reduce him to. The film ends with nuclear warheads flying through the sky to the tune of the American national anthem sung in Japanese!

 

Audiences will probably find the film sexist and the sex gratuitous, but these are the given genre conventions. However Meike seems to treat the sex either in a comical vein, stripping it of any eroticism, or making it look very drab. Politics, however bizarre, is what he seems to be aiming at within the idiom he works in. Even in the trailer, which is hilarious, he is shown talking to the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office, asking if Junichiro Koizumi would be fine with his idea of using Bush as a character in a soft core porn film, and whether it would affect the friendship between the two leaders, a moot point as the Japanese supported the US in Iraq.  He also tells the PMO that if he succeeds with this film, he has a chance to move up in life and make other kinds of films! 

 

Despite its formal limitations, Sachiko Hanai may work as a satire in this insane world where politics is practiced and reported by comic book characters. And a film with the exchange quoted below may not, perhaps, be all that dumb.

 

Young boy: SACHIKO, IS SEX REAL?

Sachiko Hanai: I DON’T KNOW. THE PLEASURE OF IT IS GREAT, EVEN IF IT IS VIRTUAL.

 

 

– Kiran David

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3 Comments

  1. ashwini gowariker said,

    fascinating concept! enjoyed reading the article immensely kiran. would it be possible to get hold of this film in blr?

  2. Manoj Agrawal said,

    Kiran,

    Memento goes backwards not because it is ‘Cool’. Think of it in this way; at any given point in the narration, neither the protagonist nor the audience have any clue on what has happened before. us, because we have not been shown yet and the protagonist because he doesn’t remember. beautiful gimmick that works so well with the central theme of the movie.

    regards,

  3. profnasty said,

    I was struck by the antiwar message. The story of Chaos was the climax of the film for me (sorry). The ending, with the american national anthem sung in Japanese after the american Holocaust is perfect. It should explain to the Japanese- american militarism and heartlesness. The humor was first rate, and Emi Kuroda is Hot Soup!

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