There’s much more afoot here than what get more commonly delivered in the average Pinky/Pinku film (which this is and is not). With an almost macabre ‘After-School Special’ quality, FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING tries to be about more than the act of sex and/or the glorification of rape (a staple of many similar Japanese films, especially those under the ‘Female Teacher’ label). One of the characters remarks, by their nature, “guppies make the best of bad situations,” and that’s not a sentiment normally explored when the pursuit of skin is paramount. Likewise, HUNTING frankly tries to say something about human nature – not just commenting separately on the roles for the male and female of the species – and it comes in the delivery of a smart script that tries to give some psychological underpinnings to the actions of its various players.
At this point, let me add the noble aside of “Yes, yes, if you’re only here for the simulated sex, there’s plenty for you to!”
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Two students – Kuriyama Daisuke (played by Hajime Ishigami) and Murakami Midori (a girl, Kyoko Ito, looking a bit like a puckish Filipino boy – are skinny-dipping in the academy pool. Though the audience isn’t shown, it’s clearly implied that they’re more than a bit frisky about the whole affair, and some unseen prankster is shown stealing Midori’s school uniform from the poolside where it sits. However, the next day, rumors persist around the school that Kuriyama raped Midori. Apparently hoping to preserve her reputation, Midori doesn’t come to her young beau’s defenses, leaving their teacher Miss Kyoko Sakatani (Yoko Azusa) to push for the boy’s possible prosecution. School breaks before Kuriyama can prove his innocence – though not before he really does stick it to Midori for not defending him – and our cast go their separate ways … but their story is just beginning.
Kuriyama sulks about a seaside town where he’s taken in by a surly shopkeeper and his sultry mistress, and – before you can say one-two-three – he finds himself knee-deep in the weirdest menage a trois this side of Huey, Louie, and Dewey (never a legitimate menage, so far as I know, but a darn clever pun). What we learn here is that the young man has lived a life exposed to some of deepest, darkest sexual exploitation perhaps known to a young mind, and, despite those circumstances, he’s done his best to repress giving in to them at school. In the greater world outside, however, he eventually succumbs to these hot advances of a kinda/sorta would-be stepmother and earns his stripes amongst this kinky duo. In the meantime, his school girlfriend Midori finds herself pestered by a curious phone prank who may know more about what really happened back at the pool; and the lovely but naïve Miss Sakatani spends the summer exploring her own sex life with a married man (the rape investigator) with a take-charge attitude.
And, seriously … that’s only half the story!
HUNTING packs an awful lot of narrative into its slim, trim 65 minutes and still manages to deliver up the steamy scenes, some that are conventional lovemaking and others that flitter and flirt with sexual assault, so much so that it becomes impossible to decipher what it might all mean. Director Junichi Suzuki directs a script from Hiroshi Saito that layers on the heavy insinuation that what’s really being exploited here are social role models (i.e. teachers as authority figures; students as hungry for learning and direction; rape case workers as doing what’s upright and honorable; etc.). What becomes increasingly clear is that the lines between consent versus dissent have grown increasingly blurred in a society prone to ‘hunting’ for real meaning – who am I, what do I want, and how do I go about getting it.
For example, Midori’s merry telephone prankster, Tanaka, has his own fetishistic hang-ups (fantasies) which cause him to start and spread the rumors about her being raped, and these essentially spring from his own inability to engage his classmate in a real-world relationship. When forced to come to terms with them, he unsuccessfully sexually assaults Midori, but their conflict is far from over as we’ll eventually see him coaxed toward better results in a scene ripe with allegory (as well as one staged and shot with crisp, near-romantic angles by cinematographer Yonezo Maeda).
But perhaps an even better example involves Miss Sakatani. As the gallant teacher, she’s intent upon putting Kuriyama’s world in order, appealing to him in the picture’s opening to not drop out of school because of what he insists are rumors of his assault on Midori. She wants the system to give the boy a chance to be found innocent. Later in the film – when she realizes he indeed may be – she seeks him out, hoping to make things right. What ends up happening is the young man rapes her – a startling development – but one not nearly as surprising as her reaction afterward when it appears she’s pleased with herself! Away from her, Kuriyama vomits, coming to grips with what he’s become; away from him, Sakatani smiles, content that she’s finally made him into what she was led to believe he was.
I hope I haven’t spoiled too much of the story here, but, as is often the case when folks explore Pinku films, it isn’t so much for the plot as it is the skin. My only desire in discussing this further – much more than I usually do – is to point out that there was far more being explored here than in the traditional skin flick; and – in whatever small way – that underscored why I’m occasionally drawn to these films. Too easily, they get dismissed as little more than pornography meant to instill whatever crass value system might be at work in an industry exploiting women for the sum of their body parts; but every now and then one comes along that challenges those biases – almost thumbs its nose at those assumptions – and, as implied by the title HUNTING, the cast and crew were trying something a bit different here. That deserves to be pointed out. As is your right, you don’t have to agree with the message; as is my right, I’m only challenging others to appreciate the effort.
FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING (1982) is produced by Isao Hayashi for Nikkatsu. DVD distribution stateside is being handled through Impulse Pictures under its popular “Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection” imprint. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Japanese spoken-language film with English subtitles (no dubbing track available). As for the technical specifications, it looks and sounds surprisingly solid for its modest age; director Junichi Suzuki should even be commended for incorporating some clever cinematography and curious sound editing choices to add greater depth to what could’ve otherwise ended up as a bloated, soap-opera-ish story. As for the special features, the disc is light – it bears only the original theatrical trailer – but the packaging includes some wonderfully informative liner notes by noted expert on Japanese film, Jasper Sharp.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. If you understand the metaphor, then think of FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING as the Merchant Ivory of Pinky porn, with a script so layered and a climax so royally screwed up that Sigmeund Freud probably would’ve soiled himself trying to decipher the conflicting and conflicted messages. Still, if your taste is anything from the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection, this one will definitely give you something to think about as its chocked full of talent who can actually act, a script that tries to give erudite subtext to the sexuality it explores, and probably the worst ‘stepmother’ figure in the history of film … or the greatest, depending upon your predilections.
In the interest of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Impulse Pictures provided me with an advance DVD copy of FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.