During the 1970’s while American cult film lovers were frequenting the Grindhouse and drive-in scenes, in Japan, Nikkatsu was making a name for itself with its “Roman Porno” erotic line. Between 1971 and 1989 the studio released over a thousand “Pink Cinema” films, and now thanks to Impulse pictures, those of us in America are finally going to get to see (at least 25 of) them for the first time. Subtitled, chock full of half-naked Asian cuties and filled with all manner of bizarre Japanese fetishism, let us examine this collection in order of release and see if American audiences have a “yen” for this sort of thing?
Volume 8 is none other than FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON; a title more befitting a late-70s Foreigner song than a film, but I digress. It's the story of a sultry teacher - a common theme for Nikkatsu films - but this one is nothing what you would expect, and, in a rarity in Pink Cinema, it is for reasons based on subtlety rather than shock.
A teacher (sensei) named Sakiko Kurata receives a phone call from one of her former students; a young girl named Sueko who has been been arrested for prostitution. As luck, fate, and a particular brand of twisted happenstance that only occurs in erotic thrillers would have it, it is revealed that Sueko's father is none other than the man who was wrongfully accused of raping the teacher so long ago. His innocence was later declared, and he was set free, but the resulting scandal has all but ruined his life, changing him from a humble, happily married breadwinner to a broken, paint huffing vagabond who struggles to keep a humble custodian job.
I know what you are thinking by now (because I was thinking it too), but Sueko's sudden appearance into Sakkiko's life is not part of any sort of revenge plan to restore her family's honor (another common theme in Japanese cinema). The sadness that has befallen the young, sexually precocious Sueko, and her Mother, Sister, and Father is very real, sad, and emotionally palpable. Of course, tragedy befalling a young Asian girl is nothing new to this particular series of movies, (it is perhaps the only common theme evident in all volumes) but most of the time it is used as mere sexually situational window dressing to make the constant exploitation sex scenes pop.
This is the first of the Nikkatsu Pink Cinema flicks I've seen in which we have a compelling story designed to actually tug at your heartstrings, rather than dare to enjoy the eroticism of it all just so it can kick you repeatedly in the groin with a particularly rough scene, switching back and forth between ever-changing moods of cruelty and flirtation. The Teacher, Sakkiko, really feels a deep sense of shame and regret for all that she has ultimately, unknowingly done to Sueko and her family, and she sacrifices many things in attempt to restore some semblance of normalcy to their lives.
The erotic scenes here are softer, but more meaningful for being so, and this one actually had a plot based on human caring and kindness instead of rape, torture, and more scenes of public urination. My problem with the film is, while it is a technically another Nikkatsu “Roman Porno”, it's actually too traditional of a film, which may be missed by more moderate moviegoers who may have given up on this bizarre and brutal series by now. By the same token, those who routinely snap up every one of the releases in this consecutively numbered series expecting to be shocked by all that is hot and wrong (as usual), may not be “evolved” enough to recognize this film's softer cinematic qualities and traditional plot elements, instead of just a “weaker” sex film (if only visually). Yet as a work of erotica, such observations are relevant.
I give it a four. I might have gone higher, but, as an individual volume of this particular line, I have to say that it was nothing like previous volumes, even if most of the changes amounted to a better traditional film (albeit one that some will not give a chance because of the inherent savagery of its siblings in the series).
Extras Include Original Theatrical Trailer plus liner notes By Jasper Sharp. (Whoa, really?)
FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON is released as of September 11, Special Thanks to Impulse Pictures for the advance copy.