Near a remote Buddhist monastery, a young man falls in love with his sister and gets her pregnant. After a monk finds out, the young man becomes an assistant to a master sculptor, only to proceed to complicate matters with his affairs.
A middle-age widow (Keiko Kaja) becomes a call girl in a shady S&M club to pay off the debts accumulated by her yakuza husband. She's a depressed woman, merely going through the motions of ... See full summary »
In a piece of erotic realism it is a work that both entertains the curious eye and then turns around to provide philosophy in order to criticize it. Being a prostitute is not easy. There is... See full summary »
Two interwoven stories. The first is a biography of anarchist Sakae Osugi which follows his relationship with three women in the 1920s. The second centers around two 1960s' students researching Osugi's theories.
A savage work that explores human sexuality and its articulations with political stances and religion: Two couples of university students swap their partners, one, Yukiko and Shinichi experienced and one, Hirochi and Yasuko unmarried and first time in an isolated motel. Later, at the seaside one of them is attacked by two maniacs, who leave the husband unconscious and rape the woman. After the event that was supposed to be traumatic, the attacked couple find themselves interested in the two aggressors and the gratuitousness of their act, and goes to look for them in the surroundings of the motel. They discover that they are part of a sect that has sexual freedom and self-support as slogans. At first reluctant, but soon giving way, the couple end up joining the secret sect and isolate themselves from the world, but things get complicated when the other couple decides to look for them.
Remarkable photography and art design enliven esoteric "art" film
Akio Jissoji is an obscure name to Western audiences. His work has only been seen widely thru his work on the original Ultraman series although it was usually uncredited in the American version. Possessed of strong visual style, Jissoji's work is very distinctive, comparable to Orson Welles or Carl Dreyer. Even his work on Ultraman (a children's program) show his preference for unusual camera angles and unique visual compositions. After his work in Japanese television, Jissoji found himself working with the Art Theater Guild, an experimental film company. They produced several films of his, Mandara being the second one. Unfortunately, Jissoji shares with his fellow Japaese film makers a fascination with S/M sexual practices and exhibits the usual Japanese misogyny seen in "erotic" films of this time. Your willingness to watch this sort of behavior will strongly effect your ability to sit though this production.
Upon first viewing, one is struck by the visual compositions, image juxtaposition and the sound production. Actually that's all there is to be struck by for the first few minutes as it takes a while for the story to get going. I didn't mind as nearly every frame of this film is a masterwork of composition and camera movement. Unfortunately the verbal part of the film is problematic for several reasons. First, the dialog is very art-house which would probably be hard to follow in Japanese let alone a translation. Second, the English translation in the version I saw is very poor and frequently confusing. Third, the film almost requires a decent knowledge of Japanese Buddhist philosophy not just Buddhism in general. Fourth, the film seems very much a product of the turbulent times it was produced and the characters seem motivated by the issues of that time in Japan.
The story, as far as I could figure from the jumbled subtitles, is about a group of strange modern Buddhists who gain followers by assaulting couples that the leader has been watching and raping the women. The couples then become members of the sect! The group spends time performing ceremonies and discussing esoteric philosophy. Then once again rape and beat some new woman or one that's already in the sect. This might be meaningful to Japanese audiences but I admit to being in the dark. Unfortunately, the rape scenes go on for extended periods of time and due to the confusing translation they leave a stronger impression then the dialog. It's also possible that the rape scenes just assured the film makers an audience for an otherwise esoteric film. Also the film is over 2 hours long!
Sad, since this is otherwise one of the best looking films I've seen.
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