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Life Is Short: Nikkatsu Studios at 100

Friday, October 19, 2012
8:40 p.m. Gate of Flesh
Seijun Suzuki (Japan, 1964)

New 35mm Print!

“Suzuki's most extreme film, Gate of Flesh is decidedly not for the faint hearted, the politically correct, or the transcendentally inclined. . . . This is a classic of the Nikkatsu subgenre known as roman porno.”—James Quandt, Cinematheque Ontario

(Nikutai no mon). “Do you know where I could find some work?” a dirtied teenage orphan asks a prostitute on the rubble-strewn streets of Japan. “Have you ever slept with a man?,” the woman responds, and the image jump-cuts to . . . the American flag: welcome to Seijun Suzuki’s Gate of Flesh, a riot of eye-popping color, cheerful nihilism, and anarchic energy that spares little in its wake. A group of whores takes in the girl, who quickly turns into a hard-boiled superheroine as tough—or tougher—than all of them, but the arrival of a muscle-bound, perpetually shirtless thug (Jo Shishido) soon messes with their survival and communal insticts. Unapologetic in its breathlessly baroque mix of violence, sex, and politics, this 1964 exploitation epic points the way towards Nikkatsu’s 1970s embrace of roman porno. “From the studio standpoint, they wanted an erotic movie,” Suzuki recalled; “women get stripped naked, tied and hung up by the wrists and beaten. But we had to deal with the motion picture ethics committee.”

—Jason Sanders

• Written by Goro Tanada, based on a novel by Taijiro Tamura. Photographed by Shigeyoshi Mine. With Satoko Kasai, Yumiko Nogawa, Kayo Matsuo, Jo Shishido. (90 mins, In Japanese with English electronic titling, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From Nikkatsu, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)