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May 02, 2013

Female Teacher Hunting

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Onna kyoshi-gari
Junichi Suzuki - 1982
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

During a moment of sex with her married lover, Shimako tells him, "Let's get nasty." Nasty might be a good operative word for much of this film. The narrative caters for that particular male audience which enjoys depictions of rape. The sex in this film is mostly furtive and joyless. As one of the latter Nikkatsu Roman Porno productions, it appears that production money was tightening with the use of grainier film stock, adding to the tonal darkness here.

The story hinges on a nasty rumor of a student raping a female classmate. Rather than clearing up the accusation, the student drops out of school, winding up in a small coastal town where he lives and works with a owner of a small restaurant and his openly available wife. Shimako also shows up at the town, attempting to continue her relationship with her lover.

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There are times when one watches a movie that seems less than promising in the hopes that there is something that provides a payoff, at the very least a small moment of redemption. I don't know if it was deliberate, but there is one near perfect shot of Shimako and her lover sitting together in a car. There are hints that the relationship is not going well. The couple are seen sharing the same space within the car, underneath a bridge. Looking at the two through the front window, the reflection of light creates a jagged division between the two. The light shines on Shimako, while the lover is in a darker space. The visual qualities in this one shot reveal all that needs to be said about this couple in the kind of shot that would more likely be remarked upon in a film by a more seriously considered filmmaker.

Water also plays an important part in the narrative. The film begins and ends with nude swimming in the school's outdoor pool. Shimako encounters her lover with his family during a stroll on the beach. The cleansing power of water is literally shown with Shimako taking a shower. There are also some metaphorical implications with the restaurant owner keeping some guppies found swimming in dirty street water. The suggestion here is that sometimes one has to swim through dirty water and find ways to be adaptable to survive. That the baby guppies have to be separated from the parents to keep from being eaten reenforces the notion of social Darwinism at work.

As noted in his own website Junichi Suzuki was nominated as a best new director for Female Teacher Hunting. It could well be that culture and context play a part here, although Suzuki's post Roman Porno career is certainly impressive. Likewise, star Yuki Kazamatsuri has had a long career, most notably with an appearance in Kill Bill, Vol. 1.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at May 2, 2013 08:11 AM