Sex and sexual awakening (of a sort) have always been near the heart of what I think most filmmakers tried to explore by way of Japanese pink films. Yes, some of the experiences were traumatic – many storytellers quite possibly saw sexual trauma as a catalyst for characters’ psychological issues – but I’ve often contended that these pictures were far more closely aligned with wish and wish fulfillment for those who suffered at the hands of their sexual aggressors. Almost all of them from the films I’ve seen find a way to overcome whatever obsession they have with the experience, and, by the film’s end, they’ve found ways to come to terms with it. Maybe it made them better people. Maybe it made them better lovers.
What you have with FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON is a pair of young women trying to put the pieces of their lives into an order that makes sense to them: one seeks to repair a life she believes she destroyed by wrongly accusing a man of rape, while another seeks to bring little more than happiness to the partners she couples with however briefly.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: A teacher, Sakiko Kurata, receives a phone call regarding one of her former students. Young Sueko is accused of being a prostitute, and has requested Sakiko’s help. This minx seduces random strangers for sex, but does not ask for payment. Sakiko has moved to another town and barely remembers Sueko, but there’s something about her that awakens painful memories of her own secretive past …”
What’s more than a bit befuddling is that one might expect a film from the FEMALE TEACHER series to actually (A) involve a teacher, (B) involve some school setting, and (C) involve many more than a single student. Sadly, DIRTY AFTERNOON really only flirts with the traditions that Nikkatsu explores throughout their FEMALE TEACHER series: Sakiko Kurata (played by Yuki Kazamatsuri) was a student teacher, and a telephone call from her incarcerated student asking basically for bail is the impetus that sets this plot into motion. In fact, Sakiko barely remembers Sueko (Ayako Ota): this is not because she wasn’t a good teacher but rather because she suffered a particularly traumatic sexual assault in the remote mining town where she served her time as a student teacher. Otherwise, DIRTY AFTERNOON is curiously absent any school, any school setting, or the usual libidinous student bodies.
That said, I found DIRTY AFTERNOON to be a bit bizarre when compared to more traditional pinky films I’ve watched. The plot feels a bit cookie-cutter – little here unfolds organically, and even the sex scenes feel far more like they’ve been inserted into some macabre ‘After School Special’ quality tale where the moral to the story is make sure you know the one you’re accusing actually did the deed before you level the accusation … otherwise you’re destined to deliver make-up sex for the rest of your days. Every one of these characters uses sex as a form of cultural compensation – the rapist seeks gratification; Sakiko seeks emotional fulfillment; Sueko wishes to make men happy; and Sueko’s mother (in a rather weird comic subplot) wants to keep her job at the corner grocer. There’s clearly more substance at work in this product as director by Kichitaro Negishi, and that’s probably because Negishi did work outside the pink industry and perhaps had other aspirations at a time when all he really needed to do was shoot the sex.
Still, I wouldn’t call DIRTY AFTERNOON a misfire. It’s interesting, that’s for sure. I just wasn’t expecting so make narrative symbolism from a TEACHER title.
FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON (1981) is produced by Nikkatsu. DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled by Impulse Pictures. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Japanese spoken language release with English subtitles available. (There is no English-dubbed track.) As for the technical specifications, again I’m surprised at how well the film has held up given its age and subject matter; even the mono track is quite good. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then you have the theatrical trailer to look forward to as well as a nice little essay in the liner notes provided by Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON isn’t the most interesting pinky/pinku film I’ve ever seen, but that’s largely because it kinda/sorta dabbles in too much unnecessary baggage (i.e. story, feelings, plot, motivation) given its fairly predictable yet theatrically contrived finish. I’m not sure that any audience really wants to watch a victim come to such happy-happy terms with fate she suffered or accidentally forced on others, especially when the solution she reaches on her own is one quite this bizarre. Or personal.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with a DVD copy of FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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