ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Edo Porn (Panorama) DVD is banned in $ingapore.