a woman in trouble, pt. 1 - norifumi suzuki's sex and fury & school of the holy beast
Reiko Ike prepares to fuck your fucking shit up in Sex and Fury (1973).
Amber's gonna hate this, but her excellent post on the great Frank Henenlotter's latest got me thinking about...Quentin Tarantino (yeah - sorry, Amber. First the postmodernism, and now this).
Here's why - it's hard to say what the exploitation flick, and it's many manifestations - say like Henenlotter's superweird and somewhat trashy-sexy exploration of desire and satisfaction, or blaxploitation, or chixploitation, or the more niche-y nunsploitation, or it's inbred cousin the rape n' revenge flick, or it's penpal from across the sea, Eurotrash - it's hard to say just what it is now, and a big part of that is the way people come to movies now: for instance, is DVD the rightful heir to the grindhouse theater? Was the exploitation flick the product of a cultural moment, now since evolved, and do we mostly see only more skillfully and artistically deployed variations on those themes? Or are the way exploitation filmmakers used to "emplot" their movies dressed up in layers of budget and big names?
Which brings me back to the Tarantino thing (and I promise, we're just about to get to the subject of this post) - if there's one truly remarkable thing about his pop culture phenom Kill Bill (2003) and the sequel, it's that he managed to introduce multiplex audiences (and reintroduce hepper peeps) to a kind of cinematic character type (albeit with zero calories and only some of the taste) that had only previously stalked second run houses in big cities or rural backwaters back in the day - self-made ladies who used their bodies, brains, and above all the strength of character to scale whatever walls a vulgar, hyperviolent and chauvanist world threw up in their way. Characters like Yumi Takagawa ("Maya") in School of the Holy Beast (1974) or the sparkling Reiko Ike ("Ocho") in Sex and Fury.
Your shit? She'll fuck
Actually, there are probably two chixploitation archetypes - the first show up onscreen as wily, hip, and rock solid women who'll likely stay that way the rest of the film (think Cleopatra Jones or Foxy Brown), while the other type ends up tested (and usually unclothed at some point) by events, only to emerge at the end of the film stronger, if a little more world-weary (think Coffy).
Ocho and Maya occupy the former category, though they were far from original archetypes even for Japanese moviegoers. But originality isn't exclusive to the exploitation subgenre - lots of times, it's all in the execution. Indeed, director Norifumi Suzuki is as much the star of these two films as his tough-gal leading ladies. The director had already been churning out a slate of voguish girl gang boss (sukeban) flicks and the four-film series Terrifying Girls' High School (1970-72) by the time Reiko Ike (who, because of a Traci Lordsish rumor she let slip, was one of Toei studio's most infamous stars) starred in Sex and Fury, and from a glorious nude sword fight (which is twice as genius if you consider it's shot and edited in a way that wouldn't offend Japanese censors)and an array of stunning visual sequences and set-ups, in a lot of ways the film represents a culmination of Norifumi Suzuki's outrageously arty style. And having Swedish sexpot Christina Lindberg tag a long as a secret agent and object du lust done up as an early anime-style Sweet Lolita doesn't hurt either.
(as they say in teeveeland, "to be continued in part two...")