Viewers thought that a young woman penetrated by a possessed tree root in The Evil Dead was something novel but in the 1800s, Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai might have been the first to show the rapturous joy of tentacle rape, as shown in Edo Porn. Stephen Tan reviews.


When it comes to Japanese art, many people would be able to recall Katsushika Hokusai's The Great Wave (circa 1831) or his Thirty-six Views Of Mount Fuji though they probably would not be able to identify the artist. At the same time, this is the same artist who gave the world the erotic manga of a nude woman ravaged by an octopus.

The title Edo Porn (1981) calls to mind the many triple-X-rated Japanese movies in the early to mid-'70s though it is a serious attempt at the bio-pic of the artist. The film begins with Hokusai (Ken Ogata) who is hardly able to make ends meet as an artist. Helping him is his 20-year-old daughter, Oei (Yuko Tanaka). One day, Hokusai meets an attractive stranger, Onao (Kanako Higuchi), discovers his muse and brings her to his home as his model.

When he enters his room, viewers see Oei sleeping with her top off, and this is where the film sort of lives up to its title. Onao then gets butt naked for her pose - there are shots of the bare back and butt and even breasts but no genitalia shots, after all this is a self-respecting Japanese movie. After a while, Hokusai gets aroused and tries to straddle Onao who says: "Is this why you brought me here?" Most red-blooded man would have done the needful at that point but only Hokusai seems torn between bedding the woman and working on his art.

While Hokusai soon introduces/offers Onao to his rich adopted father, Hokusai still sees Onao as his muse and source of inspiration. Overcome by his attraction to Onao, the adopted father offers to wed Onao only to be turned down. As a result, the old man hangs himself and soon after Onao disappears.

While Hokusai's meeting with Onao has been nothing short of inspirational, with Onao's disappearance, Hokusai's own creative juices soon stop flowing. To help her father, Oei offers to strip naked and pose. Instead of feeling despondent, Hokusai spent the rest of his life searching for Onao. When he was 89 years old, Oei meets a girl who looks like Onao and shows her to Hokusai. At the seaside, Hokusai meets a group of topless girls who makes fun of him with an octopus. It is then that Hokusai gets the idea of drawing the naked "Onao" with the octopus. As he says, he was not interested in showing the woman being seduced by the octopus, rather he wants to show (the joy of) her fondling the octopus.

Credit goes to director Shindo Kaneto who not only humanised the characters but is able to convey the various nuances where sex is involved. For example, there is nothing erotic when viewers first see the sleeping Oei or, towards the end, when Oei strips to lie down with her beloved, Bakin - as far as Kaneto is concerned, it appears as if familial nudity is a norm in this household. That people adopt a casual attitude towards sex is also indicated when after her sex scene with the octopus, "Onao" casually wraps her robe around her after Bakin comes to visit.

On the other hand, there is no mistaking the "sexually-charged" scenes: Hokusai drawing the naked Onao; Onao seducing Hokusai's adopted father; and the famous tentacle rape scene involving the naked Onao and what is obviously a prop octopus.

Just as viewers found Kaneto's 1964 classic, Onibaba, a humanistic film, here he shows his hand again in the scene where Oei strips to model for her father. While the scene carries all the eroticism that a scene featuring a naked woman presents, Kaneto does not show any nudity. Instead while he focuses on a tearful Oei from the neck up, the scene seems to say that it's one thing for a daughter to sleep with her top off but another when she has to shed her clothes and model for her father. A matter of semantics for some but the scene does help to elevate Edo Porn into a higher realm.

Note: The Edo Porn (Panorama) DVD is banned in $ingapore.

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March 26, 2007

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