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September 13, 2012

Female Teacher: Dirty Afternoon

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Onna Kyoshi: Yogoreta Hokago
Kichitaro Negishi - 1981
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Ignore the salacious title. If you cut out the requisite sex scenes, what is left is a superb drama about alienation in contemporary Japan. As has been previously noted, especially by Jasper Sharp in his history of Roman Porno, young filmmakers hopped on the pink bandwagon to jump start their careers, and often used the opportunity to explore more serious issues. Kichitaro Negishi makes the most of what he has both in story and style.

The teacher Sakiko is called by the police to pick up a student named Sueko. The young woman is unknown until Sakiko is reminded of a time she was a student teacher in a small mining village. Sueko was one of her students. The memory of that time is painful as Sakiko was raped by a man who smelled of paint thinner. Sueko's father was the man identified as the rapist. It turns out that Sakiko identified the wrong man, causing a rupture to the family, now trying to establish their lives in Tokyo. In the meantime, Sueko makes it a habit of being picked up by older men for an afternoon of hotel sex. Feeling guilty, Sakiko attempts to make amends with Sueko's father, at this time fully addicted to

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Credit is also due to Yozo Tanaka, still active, and most recently the writer for Negishi's most recent film, the acclaimed Villon's Wife. Add to that a considered use of the wide screen. Negishi sometimes has the characters framed in such a way that we see the characters in profile with space between them. Such framing emphasizes the gap between the characters, and this is one of the main themes throughout the film. The spaces between people are often emotional, but also based on differences of gender, age, class, and region. To illustrate how the lives of women are disregarded by men, Sakiko's boyfriend states that he doesn't want to carry the burden of her memories after she recounts the time she was raped, while Sueko likes to talk non-stop about her childhood in the mining village, much to the annoyance of her pick-ups. There is no comfort in the trappings of stability as Sakiko finds herself alone in a seemingly empty Tokyo, while Sueko finds temporary happiness in an itinerant existence with her father.

And yes, Yuki Kazamatsuri, is sexy, even when wearing nothing but a pair of glasses. The act of seeing is a recurring motif. Additionally, there is a scene of Sueko looking at Tokyo through a large telescope. Sueko and one of her pickups talk about how they've noticed each other, making their meeting less than accidental. Characters catch each other in compromising acts, silently watching. It was in 1981 that Negishi made the transition from pink films to the mainstream. Looking beyond the surface attractions of Female Teacher makes it clear why the transition was seamless, and within the confines of the Japanese film industry, not unexpected.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 13, 2012 08:12 AM