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December 27, 2012

Sexy Line

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SekushĂ® chitai
Teruo Ishii - 1961
Beam Entertainment DVD

The last Line movie by Teruo Ishii begins quite promisingly with a jazzy score and a title sequence made up of collages with pictures that appear to be ripped from the so-called men's magazines. One can call this film noir, but there;s also the spirit of screwball comedy mixed in.

A guy named Tetsu runs into a female pickpocket, Mayumi. She's snatched his wallet, while he's the one caught by the police for being her accomplice. Tetsu's troubles only worsen when he's ordered to transfer to the Osaka branch the following Monday, and it turns out that his fiancee, Reiko, not only worked secretly as a prostitute, but got murdered for trying to go free-lance. Tetsu gets framed for his fiancee's death, probably making his wish that he was stuck in the poky for another day. Tetsu runs into Mayumi, and the two spend the weekend trying to clear his name.

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The "sexy" comes from a couple of suggestive shots of Reiko entertaining a couple of her customers, as well as the scenes taking place in the "sketching club", where men gather around nude women, with paper and pencil in hand. The nudity is mostly suggested, with the camera frame just below the shoulders, or cloth carefully draped. One of the more imaginative shots has the back of one of the women obscured by a tactfully positioned electric fan blades. For those men with the interest and money, the models are available for more personal services.

Ishii takes his camera to the streets of Tokyo, in the Ginza and Asakusa districts. Even at night, the bright lights of the city can be very bright. But there is also a nice scene of Tetsu seeking a bar in one of the very narrow alleys of Tokyo, where often tiny bars are crammed next door to each other in claustrophobic spaces. The hand held camera work gives Sexy Line a documentary feel.

Yoko Mihara, appears here as the pickpocket Mayumi. A fixture during the last years of Shintoho, Mihara especially works her goofy charm when she blames her troubles on a finger that can't help but finding its way into other people's pockets. It's rare when an actress can mug for the camera, and her facial expressions become more ingratiating than annoying. This is a film with several small visual pleasures, and enough sense of humor about itself to allow for an improbable police rescue as the result of a note written on a paper airplane, and Mayumi, about to be a gangster's victim, carefully explaining why it would be in the criminal's best interest to postpone her death until a time when gunshots would be less conspicuous.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 27, 2012 08:15 AM