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Zoom In: Sex Apartments

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Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Naosuke Kurosawa
Yûko Araragi
Yôko Azusa
Beniko Iida
Bottom Line: 

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?

The actual translated title of this volume is “Rape Apartments” and I suppose this is as apt a synopsis as any.  It stars the exploits of a young woman named Saeko who journeys across town one final time to break up with her lover, presumably before it hurts her marriage.  Of course the rest of us know by now that she probably simply should have stayed home as there isn’t much a woman can do in these films without suffering some bizarre and hellish consequence.  On her way she is senselessly knocked off her bike and raped by a man in a black hat and leather gloves for no other reason than this is a “Pink Cinema” film.

Visibly and understandably shaken, she makes her way to her lovers abode only to find out that she simply can’t break up with him at all.  The two rekindle their love affair and we are treated to the closest thing we get in this series to a loving sex scene.  Shortly thereafter it is revealed that her lover is not only the man who raped her, but he is also an infamous sexual predator who continues to rape scores of female victims and who finishes the sexual assault by setting their genitals on fire. 

While it seems I have just told you the entire plot and ruined the movie for everyone, there is so much going on here that simply cannot be spoiled because this film makes no coherent sense whatsoever once this simple fact is exposed. 

Shot in an artistic style that is one part MTV music video, one part dream sequence and one part fire safety video gone terribly wrong, ZOOM IN: SEX APARTMENTS is an emotionally disgusting, yet visually compelling stream of consciousness scenes of sexuality, fire and the wrong kind of hotness haphazardly thrown onto a sex scene like so much errant kerosene, tossed onto a poor woman’s nether regions as a high octane scene of stratospheric sexual violence.  

While I personally think this film is perhaps needlessly brutal beyond of the point of misogyny toward the point of basic inhumanity for normal human sexuality in general and I cannot imagine (nor wish to meet) the type of people who would actually be turned on by this particular episode, the one thing I must concede is that the film’s style is almost immediately identifiable as an that of an Italian Giallo in the tradition of Argento.  All the hallmarks are there; the slow, slithery bass theme music of the mysteriously bad guy clad in black who spends the entire film taking victims from the shadows and whose ultimate identity/revelation/conceit is often the biggest conceit of the whole film.  

This film is actually in love with fire, especially artistic, high contrast shots of impossibly orange flames that erupt at inopportune times and places.  So much so that even after the villain is extinguished, women continue to yearn as they burn, with more than their passions set ablaze through a form of impossible but artsy spontaneous combustion.

While the scenes of sexual violence in this film were so senseless, cruel and completely devoid of even the most cinematic “slap and tickle” sadism that sexploitation fans love, I have to admit that with a better film, the high concept, gorgeous fire effects seen here could have been used to represent something spiritual, symbolic or perhaps utterly intangible in a proper suspense script.  As it stands, the fire is wasted as a beautiful visual to cover up an ugly act. However, if you believe that a film can be both disgusting to the soul even as it is pleasing to the eye, you may add a skull here. For all others, just think of it is as the original “Porno for Pyros”.

Extras include original Theatrical trailer sure. But how about those noted by Jasper Sharp? Yes!

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