BEHIND THE PINK CURTAIN Retrospective: Kan Mukai's BLUE FILM WOMAN

Decades after its initial release in Japan, Kan Mukai's Blue Film Woman (1969) made its U.S. debut at Fantastic Fest as part of the Behind the Pink Curtain retrospective. Mukai's film is one of the few pinku eiga from the 1960s to exist in 35mm, and Stance has graciously struck a new 35mm print with English subtitles for this retrospective. Although not as salacious or extreme as later pinku fare, Blue Film Woman has everything one would want from a 60's era pinku : it's kind of psychedelic, it's kind of sexy and it's kind of sick.

Blue Film Woman begins by showing a family man whose speculation on the stock market fails, and leaves him in serious debt to a lecherous Uchiyama. In exchange for extending the time to pay the debt, the man's wife "loans" herself to Uchiyama. Unexpected "interest" on the loan includes a trip to a crawlspace where Uchiyama's drooling, brain-damaged son Hiroshi awaits. After an encounter with the gimp, the wife is run over by a car. The despondent stock broker eventually kills himself. Mariko, the young daughter of the now extinct couple, then sets out on her own as an independent woman. She earns money by working as a go-go dancer and a call girl. She saves her money with the intention of paying back Uchiyama. Once her father dies, however, she shifts her attention to revenge. The nature of her crazy plan links to the film's title.

As one of the earlier examples of a full-color widescreen pinku, Blue Film Woman seems to work on two levels. The projections of sexy images on unclothed women, the color filters, the strobe effects and the funk and soul music (e.g., James Brown) scream of the psychedelic 60s. On the other hand, the film is a morality play that seems to be as conservative as it is depraved. The story is a tragic drama whose core is driven by sex and money. At first, sex and money are shown as potential paths to independence for the women. This idea collapses as the men are the ultimate winners in this greedy fight for survival. Perhaps the chance encounter between Hiroshi and Uchiyama, which is so unexpectedly loony as to defy description, is some sort of justice but Uchiyama walks away. Of course, given the nature of pinku eiga, Mukai's mixing of these elements could just have easily been the result of a haphazard coincidence. Regardless, Blue Film Woman is a great example of early pinku eiga that deserves to be seen.

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