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February 07, 2015

Rape Shot: Momoe's Lips

rape shot: momoe's lips 1.jpg

Reipu shotto: Momoe no kuchibiru
Katsuhiko Fujii- 1979
Impulse Pictures Region 1 DVD

It's been several months since the last Impulse Pictures DVD release from Nikkatsu erotic films series. Jasper Sharp's liner notes are helpful here in explaining the title as there is no character named Momoe. There was a popular singer and actress, Momoe Yamaguchi, and someone thought it a good idea to cast an actress, in this case Minako Mizushima, with enough of a physical resemblance to evoke memories of the aforementioned star.

Momoe's Lips does provide an illustration of cultural changes in Japan when compared to a couple of earlier films. Akira Kurosawa's Scandal from 1950, is about a singer pursued by tabloid photographers, trying to make more out a chance meeting with a photographer. Kurosawa concluded his film with a condemnation of falsely created news used to sell newspapers, as well as the loss of privacy. There is also some connection here with Nikkatsu films from the Fifties and early Sixties about popular singers such as I Hate but Love, about the star making machinery, and the conflict between the demands of celebrity and private life.

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Part of it may simply be because of genre demands as well, but everyone in Momoe's Lips is sleazy. The tabloid reporter, Toru, is so desperate for a story the will bring in a big payday, that in order to prove that the young singer, Yoko, is a drug addict, he corners her in a bathroom stall, and forces her to urinate onto a handkerchief that he hope will be analyzed. Following her to her apartment, Yoko is witnessed getting kidnapped by three thugs who take turns raping her. Toru tracks Yoko to a small bar in Yokohama, where the girlfriend of one of the kidnappers greets Toru by removing her panties, the prelude to a very personal introduction. As it turns out, Yoko is kept in line by her record company, injected with an unnamed drug.

There are indications that had he not spent most of his career in erotic film, Katsuhiko Fujii might have been noted in mainstream films for his flashes of style. In a scene of Yoko singing her current hit song, we see Yoko performing excerpts, first in a recording studio, then in different performances, wearing different clothing, the shots linked with swish pans. There is something of a pop art sensibility at work with the giant photos of Yoko on the walls of the record company office. The notion of celebrity is also played with as the kidnappers lair has a giant poster of Yoko. One of the kidnappers stops molesting Yoko long enough to watch her on television, as if having possession of the live star is not enough.

Whether Momoe's Lips is truly erotic is dependent on the individual viewer. Fujii does begin with an extreme close-up of a tongue finding its way into a belly button. This is followed by several other shots, also composed in such a way that the female body is abstracted into smaller segments that are not immediately recognizable. In much the same way, the whole of Momoe's Lips may be of questionable value, but there are several parts that are worthy of consideration.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 7, 2015 07:56 AM