The Japanese have their own unique experiences with eroticism in film, and they’re called ‘pink (or pinku) films.’ Traditionally, these ‘pink films’ are defined as softcore pornography – think “sex with a story” at a time when motion picture production restrictions strictly prohibited showing the ‘naughty bits’ (i.e. genitalia) on film. Directors had to creatively stage these sexual liaisons in order to maintain required standards. Of course, pink films also have varying other characters to further set them apart from ‘adult video’ productions such as sex scene quotas, time limit, and budget; but, for the purposes of this review, let’s just consider it “sex with a story” so we have common ground. Suffice it to say, films of this unique genre emerged as a driving force in Japanese cinema throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s, when adult video arrived on the scene and changed the terms of engagement into a whole new animal. To be accurate, pink films are still being produced today, although their success in the marketplace has been dramatically lessened.
Oniroku Dan – whose birth name was Yukihiko Kuroiwa – is best known for his S&M (Sadism & Masochism) novels in Japan, having written over 200 of them. His fascination with S&M didn’t rely on pain or torture – elements common to many filmed interpretations of bondage; rather, in his own words, he saw it as a “distorted sexual desire or extreme disorientation. It’s a male fantasy derived from love … from seeing a beauty suffer through the sense of shame. Therefore, my style contains a romantic, aesthetic, and sometimes decadent fragrance.” Furthermore, he believed in an ideal woman – a lady who fit a specific background and physical description – and he used the same elements when crafting his numerous stories, believing it helped underscore the specific elements of fantasy he sought to create for his readers.
(NOTE: Hat/tip Wikipedia for some of the above)
PASSIONS OF A PRIVATE SECRETARY is a film based on Oniroku Dan’s work. PASSIONS tells the story of Shizuko (played by Mayu Asada), a corporate secretary engaged to her company president’s son. A work friend of hers, Koizumi (Mutsuo Yoshioka), secretly pines for her. Through a chance sexual encounter with a scheming prostitute named Nogami (the playful Tsugumi Nagasawa), Koizumi conspires with her to kidnap Shizuko so that, together, they can transform the quiet and submissive secretary into a blooming sex partner. However, once Koizumi trades Shizuko to an aging account executive in exchange for a work promotion, he grows increasingly despondent as Shizuko’s ‘bloom’ slips further and further from his grasp, now rising to levels of pure ecstasy.
There’s a metaphor running through all of PASSIONS dealing with a scorpion. Indeed, we’re shown a dark, menacing scorpion crawling across the ground in the opening scenes, at several unique junctions in the film, and again near the conclusion. From what we’re told from the story, the male scorpion – a powerful creature – dies after it ‘mates’ with the female scorpion. In other words, the male of the species loses all of its virility once it copulates, and, indeed, the film makes tremendous use of this metaphor throughout … all the way up to Shizuko’s ultimate discovery of her sexual prowess over men. In a dreamlike sequence near the film’s climax (no pun intended), she even imagines cornering a scorpion and taunting it, displaying her natural dominance over the wild. In the film’s closing scene, the audience is treated to Shizuko all decked out in dominatrix black – matching the exact guise of a female scorpion – which serves as a start contrast to her opening scenes, when she’s depicted in all-white dresses.
Clearly, tremendous thought and creativity went into crafting PASSIONS’ script from the Dan’s writings. While the film certainly won’t be to everyone’s liking (even I struggled with some depictions of Shizuko’s encounters when she’s bound and gagged and, clearly, not having the time of her life … yet), what director Yutaka Ohgi has done here is crafted an eerily poetic ‘pinku’ worth its ninety minutes of film. Unlike most adult videos, the flick is populated with characters, and these characters – in an almost noirish sense – have backstories open to various interpretations; they’re all flawed, they’re all driven by their own private agendas, and they’re forced to act on those flaws in attempting to achieve what they want sexually. It’s an increasingly treacherous narrative about control and submission – two concepts very near the heart of S&M (from what I’ve read, mom!) – and it’s easy to appreciate the destination even though you may find fault with the journey.
In Dan’s world, one could argue that sex is its own form of art, and art – as any artist will tell you – is only attainable through sacrifice. Shizuko’s sacrifice is a moral one, but it’s clear she rises to the occasion in order to control her fate.
The picture is crisp with good colors, but I found the audio lacking in a few sequences; there were some obvious audible pops and cracks in the track. English subtitles are available, and, to my surprise, they weren’t obtrusive to the visuals in the slightest (I’ve had that problem with some pink films I’ve watched in the past). The disc comes with only two special features (an ‘other films available from’ commercial and eight graphic stills from the picture); they’re nothing all that grand, but it’s nice to know some effort was made.
RECOMMENDED for fans of pinku and even adult video, though some will find disappointment with even a mild emphasis on ‘cleverness’ over ‘copulation’ for sure.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Cinema Epoch provided me with a DVD screener by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more