DVD: Debauchery / Ryôshoku (1983)

August 21, 2012 | By

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Film: Very Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good/ DVD Extras: Standard

Label: Impulse Pictures / Synapse Films/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: April 10, 2012

Genre: Japanese Pink / Adult

Synopsis: A bored housewife gives in to the pleasures of an afternoon escort service, but finds it’s all part of a familiar’s grand sadistic scheme for total humiliation.

Special Features: Liner notes by Jasper Sharp / Theatrical Trailer

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Review:

Hidehiro Ito’s portrait of a woman’s downfall into a self-induced emotional and physical hell-hole has all the elements of classic & contemporary S&M erotica, but being a Nikkatsu Roman Porno film (Vol. 1 in Impulse / Synapse’s ongoing series), both the onscreen behaviour and Ito’s camera linger on unending torment. The funny thing about Debauchery (a misleading title for a film about a journey rather than rampant bad behaviour) is that had Ito not been restricted to Nikkatsu’s no-nonsense running time of 70mins., he could’ve made a richer film in plot & character.

PLOT SPOILERS

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Debauchery isn’t a nice movie – the sex scenes go on like a brutal wrestling matches with optional implements (crops, tethers, and beads) – but there is a sense Ito wasn’t trying to make 100% disposable crap. Ami’s descent has a classical premise – bored & neglected housewife is initially lured into afternoon prostitution sessions and quickly realizes she likes the shocks – and then becomes grim when she discovers her entire journey was pre-planned by a jilted ex-lover. The revenge streak is what Ito uses to justify staging a few epic sequences of sexual abuse, and redirect the story from a series of escapades with clients to vignettes where Ami is increasingly humiliated in pre-arranged, pre-ordained sessions by her ex-lover (and husband’s best friend).

The problem with this type of story – as in more classical versions like the Story of O (1975), B-grade efforts like The Sexploiters (1965), or even the insane Tokyo Decadence (1992) – is how to end the monster that’s been created. Ito seemed to realize there wasn’t any way to reasonably resolve his drama because of three key hurdles: the running time wouldn’t allow for it; a secondary story of a dirty old man (Wife to Be Sacrificed’s creepy Nagatoshi Sakamoto) with a schoolgirl fetish was a narrative dead-end; and by spending so much time on centerpiece sequences, he lacked room to structure a fluid finale. The compromise is (literally) explosive and jarring: by killing off redundant characters, Ami is reunited with her husband in what can either be read as a moment of forgiveness and the beginnings of a badly needed reconciliation, or a portent that their relationship will similarly evolve (devolve?) to destructive levels where Ami is reduced to a human shell, if not a sex toy, assuming her husband is interested in continuing Ami’s final chapter of ‘debauchery.’

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END OF SPOILERS

Impulse / Synapse’s DVD features a clean transfer of the film, and as per Japanese censorship regulations, any shots or moments of brief genital exposure from softcore / simulated acts are fogged. The very sparse music score seems to consist of two stock cues: one resembles a generic Tangerine Dream cue, whereas a second semi-tragic theme works very well over Ami’s moments of (forced) self-reflection.

As outlined in Jasper Sharp’s concise booklet notes, writer / director Hidehiro Ito later moved on to writing & producing (including Takashi Miike’s Bodyguard Kiba and Full Metal Yakuza), whereas actress Ryoko Watanabe’s brief career includes the comedic TV series Detective Story / Tantei monogatari (1979-1980), and the pink films Love Hard, Love Deep / Pink cut: futoku aishite fukaku aishite (1983) and Female Prisoner: Caged! / Joshû ori (1983).

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© 2012 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

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