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April 23, 2013

Electric Button

electric button 1.jpg

Tsuki to Cherry / Moon & Cherry
Yuki Tanada - 2004
Tidepoint Pictures Region 1 DVD

The young woman known by her family name of Mayama has, if not exactly a super power, the keen ability to look through a guy in just a few seconds. Introduced as the lone female in a club of university students who gather to write erotic literature, she immediately blasts through the pretenses of newbie Tadokoro, identifying him as a virgin.

"Electric Button" is the group's slang term used to refer to a female genitalia. It's the emotional buttons of Tadokoro that keep on being pushed as Mayama initiates him into a sexual relationship primarily to be used as material for her popular serial. Any description of the plot might make one think Yuki Tanada's debut feature might be a feminine take on the pink film if not the more sentimental coming of age stories. Even though Tanada is a fan of the Farrelly brothers, the banter between Mayama and Tadokoro reminded me more of some Hollywood comedies from an earlier era.

electric  button 2.jpg

Between Mayama's take charge attitude, and Tadokoro's bewilderment in finding himself in situations he is totally for which he is totally unprepared, I thought of such volatile pairings such as Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire, or Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve, as well as Katherine Hepburn humiliating Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. Returning to complain about being tricked into an encounter with a dominatrix, Tadokoro complains about the various indignities he's experienced while Mayama hastily scribbles notes. Mayama reminds Tadokoro's of his declaration of having stamina, to which the young man can only sputter, "That's not the point". It's a scene that doesn't seem all to removed from Cary Grant having a temper tantrum while wearing Katherine Hepburn's nightgown.

As if taking its queues from classic Hollywood, Tadokoro engages in a relationship with the more traditionally feminine Akane, small, cute, and cheerful. And like older films, the male protagonist feels a sense of dissatisfaction, longing for the more independent and willful female. Akane's is no pushover either, with the two parting on her terms.

This is Yuki Tanada's only film at this time to get a U.S. DVD release. I wrote about her One Million Yen Girl almost three years ago. Like that film, Electric Button falls outside the more easily identifiable genre classifications used nowadays to market Asian cinema. This is a low key mostly comic film, which briefly touches on some serious points suggesting that still in Japan, there are certain expectations made of female artists.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 23, 2013 08:24 AM