The Pornographers

1966 Japanese movie

Rating: 16/20

Plot: Pornography filmmakers deal with the mob, widows, and pet fish.

I didn't think I was enjoying this, but its genius kind of crept up on me. I was hooked by how many scenes were shot through windows or frames that looked like windows. It made me feel like a voyeur, and although I don't think I quite understand what that meant thematically, it at least kept me interested in the movie stylistically if I wasn't quite engaged with its characters or story. That, and I was fascinated by the carp that was supposed to be the main character's girlfriend/landlord's reincarnated husband. I couldn't wait to make a reincarpated pun on the blog. I was actually a little confused by the story, likely because I couldn't keep the characters straight and watched this in too many installments because I kept starting it too late at night. If this wasn't the latest pick for the little Criterion adventure my brother and I are on, I might have actually given up. I'm glad I didn't because the second half is terrific. There's a great moment where a character loses her mind that climaxes in this gorgeous shot accompanied by out-of-place surf rock. There are all these shots through the carp's aquarium that I really liked, including one that makes it seem like the fish is floating above the characters in the scene. That aquarium's another window, I guess. That fish, by the way, could act! There's another great shot where a woman is walking down a long hallway toward the camera that is about as cool as anything I've ever seen in a movie. The movie unravels--but in a good way--and nearly morphs into a science fiction movie at the end, finishing with a lovely shot of buoyant loneliness before the revelation as the credits come in that the whole thing isn't exactly what we thought it was.

Stick with this one because there's always a lot more going on than what you might think. I actually feel like seeing it again, maybe all in one sitting this time, to put its pieces together a little better.

Next Criterion pick for my brother and me, if you want to participate: The Tin Drum, a movie I've seen but don't remember.


Anonymous said...

I dont think i can add anything to this review. story was a mess. the main character taking his crazy dieing girlfriends advice to marry her 15 year old daughter seriously, was a little hard to accept intellectually. i gave it a 15 though just based on some of those shots. the shot down through the fishbowl, the aforementioned crazy woman going nuts with the well done transition, and the pretty girl walking down the hall, were my standouts. i suppose there was some commentary made about sexual repression/taboo or changing sexual revolution.

Shane said...

There was some dialogue about capitalism in there that made me wonder about some economic or post-WWII subtext, but I'm not Japanese and didn't get what it was trying to say about any of that. I'm not smart enough for most of the movies I watch.