Wet Woman in the Wind
Tasuku Nagaoka, Yuki Mamiya
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What is the difference between a self-aware re-tread of a cheap and sleazy hour of pornography, and the original hour of pornography?
Kosuke (Tasuku Nagaoka) is a successful playwright who, unlucky in love, has retreated to a thrown-together shack in the woods while he emotionally recovers. His solitary life is disrupted by the arrival of Shiori (Yuki Mamiya), a deranged woman intent upon invading his home and forcing him to have sex.
Let’s back up for a quick Japanese history lesson. In the 1970s the Japanese film industry was at a commercial low point. The industry was under attack from two sides: by expensive American imports stealing market share, and by the rapidly expanding television industry that was leading audiences to stay at home. The major studios struggled to stay afloat during this period, until they were thrown a valuable lifeline. Television censors kept violent and sexual content off-screen, and that gave feature films an angle of approach to keep everybody in business. A quick survey of 1970s Japanese film shows two main trends dominating: violent crime films, and soft-core erotica.
The erotic films, generally referred to locally as ‘roman porno’, were mostly the domain of the famous studio Nikkatsu. Their previous output of gangster films, noir, and teen dramas gave way to an increasingly salacious production line of pornography. Unable to adjust to a changing industry in the 1980s, Nikkatsu eventually collapsed and declared bankruptcy in 1993. The studio was revived 17 years later and is now cashing in on its notorious roman porno films with a new string of self-aware, referential erotic features for the arthouse market.
These new films have come with a strict set of rules for their unexpectedly high-profile directors: the films cannot run for more than 80 minutes and their production shoot may only last a maximum of two weeks. There are other films in the new range directed by Sion Sono (Love Exposure) and Hideo Nakata (Ring, Dark Water). Wet Woman in the Wind comes from director Akihiko Shiota, and it comes as a sharp contrast to his big-budget manga adaptation Dororo – still his most famous work in or outside of Japan.
There is a certain degree of wit to Wet Woman, as well as a committed cast of actors and genuinely likable jazzy score by Shunsuke Kida. It does deliver a fairly authentic tribute to the roman pornos of the mid-1970s. Therein also lays its problem. What is the difference between a self-aware re-tread of a cheap and sleazy hour of pornography, and the original hour of pornography? The sex scenes – most of which are packed into a seemingly unending second half of gyrating bodies – may satisfy a particular viewer’s desire to ogle naked women, but the film itself does not challenge or critique those earlier films. There is a kind of play at work in recreating the genre and technique, but it feels more satisfying in an abstract sense than in the actual chore of sitting through it.
The sex feels ordinary, and if watching sex is your thing there are countless better and more entertaining avenues to find it. There are some well-timed and performed moments of slapstick comedy, but if that is your thing there are again better films to watch. In the end, Wet Woman in the Wind falls graceless between two stools. It’s momentarily intriguing for recreating an abandoned style of movie, but it ultimately feels no different than just tracking down one of those 1970s original and watching that instead. To be honest, it is all more than a little dull.