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?
Around the world, there are few occupations as fetishized in film as that of a teacher of high school students, and once again a Roman Porno has given the audience what it wants. Not to be confused with the Impulse film FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON reviewed here, FEMALE TEACHER : IN FRONT OF THE STUDENTS is the tragic and yet somehow exploitative story of a teacher who turns a sexual assault into a crusade, even if her ultimate search for justice will only amount to new levels of degradation and lurid scenes of voyeurism for the benefit of the viewer who are almost insisting on them by now, in Volume 12 of this series where sexual violence has always been anything if not “academic”
Reiko is the new high school teacher and struggles to be a stern disciplinarian, a fact evident when she repeatedly reprimands several kids for misbehaving and for horseplay, whether in the classroom or on the tennis court. Then, late one night when she is showering alone in the teacher’s faculty shower, she is brutally raped by a masked man who leaves a single enigmatic clue behind after the assault, a single puzzle piece. Still reeling from her initial feelings of violation and shock from the brutality of the crime itself, Reiko makes it a private obsession to find out who committed the rape and to personally investigate the crime herself. Along this way she meets a veritable rogue’s gallery of potential offender’s and possible co-conspirators who might have some involvement of the crime. Could it be the student tennis star Sakai and his precocious girlfriend Kumi? Perhaps it was the gentle, mild mannered instructor named Akiyama who had a thing for jigsaw puzzles? Maybe it was Shimano, the simple meek, misunderstood class geek who was inherently awkward and shy in most basic forms of social interaction? I suppose it doesn’t matter much as all of these people will also viciously rape Reiko at some point in this film for no apparent reason. This is ironic character development at its finest as it appears Reiko was intuitive enough to suspect everyone she knew was a possible rapist but yet somehow foolish enough in continuing to interview each and every one of them in enclosed environments where they could easily overpower her. It would seem all knowledge is bittersweet in this film.
It should be stated that Reiko does find closure….of a sort. She does eventually meet her original attacker and they try to rape her again, but, ultimately, “can’t get into it” when she responds to their advances in a loving fashion that encourages her partner to go for it…so what do they do? The final moments of the movie depict a consensual role playing game where Reiko lies on the floor naked and pretends to resist all so her rapist turned lover can complete his violent sex with her to completion and express his true feeling of fondness for her…If this seems strange and psychologically demeaning, just wait until you see the final scene of the movie where Reiko is shown back in class as if none of this had ever happened, teaching with the same confident cool demeanor as she had in the opening scene. Meanwhile her students; those exact same kids who had each violently raped her or had watched it occur at some point in the film are all present as well. Yet instead of cutting up or causing trouble as they had before, all of the students now conduct themselves quietly, respectfully; somehow inexplicably transfixed at Reiko’s every word as she teaches them and opens each of their minds like a beautiful lotus flower. I struggle to say anything meaningful about this conclusion except now you know why people say there should be only “three R’s” in formal education because when the fourth “R” is rape, the lessons learned are probably best not studied too closely except as yet another fantastical rape themed fetish film from Nikkatsu that kids shouldn’t be watching anyway.
While the Japanese obviously see rape differently than we do, in this film it is treated as something of an offense that student might get a detention for, though no one is ultimately prosecuted. If that doesn’t piss you off because your feminist sensibilities are harder or all but nonexistent, the following film just might: the editing is so choppy in some places with the removal of actual film frames that many of the scenes of nakedness almost have a stop motion quality to them. While I do of course still accept the fact that there is no, nor will there ever be, depictions of full frontal nakedness in any Japanese erotic films, I do feel that there could have been better ways to conceal this harsh reality by using artful obstruction by objects placed strategically in the foreground of a shot, or by a maddening mastery of camera angles to keep things soft-core at all times as they had done in previous volumes. However it is admittedly a worthy entry for any wackos who like the concept of Asian women in a schoolgirl motif teaching you some exotic film culture “the hard way”.
Extras include the usual film trailer and a booklet by Jasper Sharp.