Wednesday, February 14, 2007

女囚701号 さそり/ Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion

(Movie Review)

Japanese old movies, like Japanese old music, is a lot of crap with a few gems hidden away in the middle. The challenge for the un-initiated is being able to navigate through the video store when you don’t know one movie from another.

This 1970s Japan exploitation movie is under renewed interest as one of Tarantino’s inspirations for “Kill Bill”. I hate to follow Tarantino’s movie recommendation guide, because I don’t consider myself a Tarantino fanatic, and I don’t like the trendiness of it. Nevertheless, when I was in the classic section of my local video store, this was the only video I even recognized, so I decided it was as good a place to start as any with my forays into Japanese film.

The story is about a woman who is betrayed by her lover, an undercover cop, ends up in prison, is brutalized both by her fellow prisoners and by the prison guards, toughs it out, escapes, and takes vengeance on her tormenters.

Based on that description, you can probably tell this is a sexploitation movie without me even having to say it. And based on the fact that it’s one of Tarantino’s favorite movies, you can probably already guess that it’s pretty sick and twisted.

It’s easy to see where much of this movie influences “Kill Bill”. Aside from the obvious revenge plot, the film showcases unique art-house like camera angles and lighting, and lots of quick zoom in close ups against jarring music. Even the title music for this film has been used as part of the Kill Bill 2 soundtrack. And the quality of the fake blood is very "Kill Bill" esque

As this is a women’s prison movie, you can expect the usual shower scenes, gawking guards, and lesbianism. If it stopped there, it might be tempting to dismiss this as just more harmless trash for leering idiots. But some of the brutalization scenes in the prison also add an element of sadism and misogyny that is a bit more disturbing, although hardly surprising in Japan, considering the misogynistic trash that is on the magazine racks at any convenience store and supermarket. If any country could make an art film about misogyny, it is Japan.

How exactly to classify this film as art, trash, classic pulp, or blatant misogyny is beyond my philistine intellect. Despite all the torture she endures, this film does have a very strong female character who comes through triumphant in the end. Parts of it remind me of a female version of “Cool Hand Luke”, especially since a favorite tactic of the guards is making her dig holes and fill them up again. But other parts are….
Well, decency forbids me to go into detail.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Eikaiwa teachers come from a variety of backgrounds, and are generally native English speakers. Most come from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States. 97% (according to 2004 statistics from the Ministry of Immigration) spend less than 3 years teaching in Japan (Average of 1 year)

Link of the Day
From my fellow bloggers:
Whisky Prajer on breaking the 24 addiction
Mr. Guam on the real meaning of Saint Valentine's Day

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