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February 03, 2014

Sex Hunter

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Sekkusu hanta - sei kariudo
Toshiharu Ikeda - 1980
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

Sex Hunter is probably not the most perverse movie ever made, but it will still raise the eyebrows of all, but the most jaded viewers. In addition to a lesbian orgy, a gang bang, sadomasochism with ropes and whips, miscegenation, there is sex on a wheelchair, and a Coca-cola douche. Most of the film takes place in a mansion where the initially unwilling young ingenue is assured that no manner of pleasure is forbidden. The semi-Gothic mansion houses a very private ballet school, where some of the dancing is horizontal. While in his notes, historian Jasper Sharp links Sex Hunter to Dario Argento's Suspiria, I found myself thinking more of the films of Radley Metzger, where sex was part of private, or not so private, performance, along with Joseph Losey's The Servant with that film's exploration of power dynamics. In its very twisted way, this film also anticipates parts of Black Swan.

It all begins with a little prick. Ballerina Mike receives flowers and a card from an admirer following her lead performance in Swan Lake. The card has a sharp edge. The close up of Miki's hand serves as a terrific visual queue for the end of her physical and emotional virginity. Walking along the street the next day, Miki is followed by Akiko in her car. Akiko is the one with last night's flowers. She is also the sister to Miki's absent boyfriend, Genichiro. Akiko invites Miki to check her home, complete with a ballet school. A former dancer, Akiko intends to stage a ballet with Miki in the lead. What waits for Miki is a descent into hell.

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Many of the scenes involve the use of two way mirrors. What makes the scenes interesting is most of them simultaneously invoke both voyeurism and narcissism. Several of the scenes have the revelation of sexual transgression being forced on an unwilling viewer. Yet because the sex always takes place in a mirrored room, there is the implication that those performing the sex are also doing so for their own pleasure, regardless of whom else might be watching. There is also one scene where the mirrors are clear on both sides, and sexual desire is expressed by lovers separated by glass.

Much of the credit should go to the manga artist Dirty Matsumoto, who created the original story. At the same time, Toshiharu Ikeda has made a name for himself, most famously with Evil Dead Trap, pushing the boundaries of what can be shown on screen, especially with anything considered taboo in Japanese culture.

Not that he would be entirely unique in this regard, but Ikeda also has a nice use of red here, with the shot of blood on Miki's finger, as a cloth belt on the white leotard of a dancer, the red rope that binds Miki, and red petals in a bath. The intelligent filming of Swan Lake that opens the story indicates that Ikeda not only had a better understanding of how to visually present dance, but that he probably could have done well as a mainstream filmmaker had he not preferred to make a career out of finding new ways to shock the audience.

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Posted by peter at February 3, 2014 07:31 AM