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December 13, 2012

Sex Hunter: Wet Target

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Sekkusa Hanta: Nureta hyoteki
Yukihiro Sawada - 1972
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Jasper Sharp says so in his notes that accompany this DVD, and I would agree, this is a film worth seeing, especially if you look beyond the title. Without the sex scenes and the nudity, this would be a fairly conventional film, the story of an ex-con seeking revenge against the men who raped his sister, a young woman so traumatized that she hangs herself. But while the sex and nudity are what classify this film as Roman Porno, it's the political aspects to this story that are loaded and worth examining.

As was common, especially in the earliest years of "Pink" movies, as long as certain requirements were maintained in terms of any depictions of sex, the filmmakers pretty much had free reign in their content. Sex Hunter: Wet Target takes on both American and Japanese racism, as well as attacking the special legal status of American forces in Japan. Without understand the historical context, some viewers might misinterpret this film as simply being anti-American. The two gang rape scenes involve American soldiers with Japanese women, with the one interior scene taking place in a room with a giant picture of the Statue of Liberty and uniforms hung against the walls. Such scenes have their inspiration in real life events.

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The ex-con, Okamoto, is half African-American. Eyes are raised as his sister is full Japanese. Seeking the men who raped his sister, Natsuko, Okamoto seeks out Etsuko, Natsuko's friend, and finds himself in a world of gangsters with ties to the U.S. military. Okamoto also gets a job at a topless bar, where the dancers put on private sex shows. Okamoto's mixed race is cause for both attraction and revulsion, as it is the source for his becoming a sex show star, while also giving excuse to be called "Darkie".

Sex Hunter: Wet Target is another example of how the earliest Nikkatsu Roman Porno films tried to look as much as possible like mainstream films, within certain budget constraints. There is exceptional care in the lighting of many scenes, as well as several artistic touches. The opening rape scene takes place in totally black environment, while a flashback imagined by Okamoto takes place in a totally white environment. It is as if this event which horrifies Okamoto, takes place out of conventional space and time. A further sense of dislocation is created with the use of extreme close ups of a woman's lips, or a tongue exploring that same woman's ear, during the sex scenes, making such scenes of intimacy abstract.

The revenge story has its own unique twist as Okamoto is robbed of his opportunity to strike back at the rapists. At one point, newsreel footage from Vietnam is on a television, adding to the questioning of the American military's presence in Asia. I would also contend that the film questions the how "the other", be it based on race or culture, is made into a subject of erotic fantasy. The screenplay is by Atsushi Yamatoya, most famous for contributing to Suzuki Seijun's career buster, Branded to Kill. Like that more famous film, Sex Hunter: Wet Target is the work of filmmakers looking to break the rules of subject matter and narrative presentation.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 13, 2012 08:18 AM