Apr 11, 2012

Debauchery (1983)
Director: Hadehiro Ito
Writers: Hadehiro Ito
Starring: Ryoko Watanabe, Serina Nishikawa, Mizuho Nakagawa, Yuka Hanabusa and Yuka Takemura

The Plot: Ami (Ryoko Watenabe) is a housewife who is feeling sexually frustrated. Although she has a nice husband at home, who does not run away from the bedroom, she can’t help but dream about various sexual acts that modern society would likely deem as obscene. A new pathway opens in her life when she hears about a old friend from school who is now working at a high-class brothel. She soon realizes that if she wants her masochistic fantasies to come true, this would likely be the ideal place. After picking up her very first John, via an accidental phone call, Ami knows that this is the life for her. She has to fulfill these sexual needs, and she will do whatever it takes to achieve her goals. She immediately runs to the previously mentioned brothel in order to begin her new life. However, it seems as if there may be someone behind the scenes pointing her in this direction. Furthermore, when she gets everything that she thinks she wants, will it prove to be too much?

The Review
Although we have covered several pinky violence titles here on Varied Celluloid, so far we have not went into heavy detail considering the numerous other lineages of the pinku genre. Although beginning as a independent form of softcore pornography, it wasn’t long before the various film studios started to catch on to the commercial viability of these movies. You see, pinku titles were not only exploitation, many were seen as important pieces of artistry. They mixed cultural ideals with sex, and the combination caught on with the masses during a period where many were avoiding theatrical films. Around 1971, Nikkatsu film studios, Japan’s oldest movie studio, decided to go into production on a new line of pinku titles that they would call their roman porno line. This, of course, referred to “romantic pornography,” and these films were originally marketed as softcore movies that couples could enjoy. Filled with plot, excellent photography, and even some underlying subtext, these were legitimate films instead of simple titles for folks to get their jollies with. Debauchery is a late-period roman porno that is being released via Impulse Pictures, and although it may not be one of the most famous titles in the market, it certainly proves its worth. A prime example of the lengths that producers would go to during the eighties, in order to lure viewers away from the burgeoning video market, Debauchery is hardly the romantic ideal. Unless, of course, your vision of romanticism lines up with something that the Marquis de Sade might have imagined.

I suppose if you were going to classify Debauchery within the roman porno line, it would be similar to the violent pink titles that Yasuharu Hasebe created during the late seventies. Debauchery is nowhere near as mean spirited or upsetting to watch, but it is a movie that certainly looks to push buttons. The gratuitousness of the visuals stay implanted in the viewer’s mind, and although this is a movie that actually has several clever things to say about cravings, marital bliss, the role of the housewife in contemporary Japanese society, etc., ultimately the sex is what will stay with most viewers. This is not a bad thing by itself, mind you, because Debauchery is incredibly creative in this regard. The sexual antics are obviously quite entertaining, but the mix of sex and content are what makes this an interesting piece of work. The sex is here, but so is the subtext, allowing readers to take from the movie what they will. Sure, this does not prove to be the most analytical thesis that any filmmaker has ever compiled, but on its own merit Debauchery is both intellectually stimulating while also being… well, stimulating. Whether you’re a viewer who simply wants to see a bald man perform cunnilingus on a woman while he holds her upside down, or if you are a viewer who wants to gather more information on S&M culture within Japanese society, this movie offers a lot! The “debauchery” from the title comes in the form of sexual submission on the part of our Ryoko Watenabe’s character. Her fantasy isn’t really to be raped, but she enjoys the act of being dominated. She has a masochistic edge, and we can see her infatuation with it by her refusal to accept money for her first prostitution gig. She doesn’t want money for these acts, but instead she enjoys the act itself. Her husband apparently has all the money that she could ever need. As she masturbates, looking at the scratches left on her by an abusive customer, we see the addictive qualities of this thrill. While the filmmaker sets us up with a sexy shot of Watenabe rubbing her crotch, gathering our surface level attention, the filmmaker establishes her character by showcasing her opening sexuality. Debauchery may not be subtle in the way it goes about exposing its audience to information, but it is alluring in nearly all ways.

Shot in an impeccable fashion, Debauchery looks as amazing as one might expect from any Japanese studio film produced during this era. Although the eighties are talked about less within Japanese film circles, the studio movies from this decade had a fantastic and modern fashion sense to their productions. Debauchery is no different. Everything seems to be caught in the fluctuation between seventies sensibilities and eighties fashion, but everything seems uniquely Japanese in a very odd way. Sure, the shoulder pads that women wore are in fine effect during this film, but the colors seem to veer away from pastels or anything too garish. The look within the film is certainly bold, if nothing else. Unfortunately, the plot probably doesn’t stand out quite as much. As you may have already been able to tell by the synopsis, this sort of story isn’t entirely new. Curious wives have been covered numerous times in the realm of erotica. So, it is hard to give the movie points for originality in this regard. What generally saves the movie, however, is the fact that Debauchery possesses a level of strange that many other films do not. It takes things into a nearly pornographic level, but at all times it is quite classy in its production. There is a certain type of morbid atmosphere floating around in the movie, despite the sense of class. There is a slight hint of the macabre, and this world of high class prostitution becomes wholly unreal. The weirdness continues and spreads itself through every frame of the movie. Although it tackles issues from a very mature perspective, it doesn’t hide the fact that we are essentially talking about extreme doses of violence mixed in with world of the sensual. Ultimately, there is something peculiar about sadism, and the movie doesn’t hide this from its audience. Instead, it revels in the moral ambiguity of this situation.

What have the viewers come for in Debauchery? Surely it isn’t the discussions on sadism or masochism alone! It is the sex! This is a area that Debauchery never comes close to shying away from. The sex sequence between our lovely leading lady and the previously mentioned bald giant is essentially the centerpoint of the entire movie. Although the sequence is highly exploitative, it is actually important to the plot. That is the wild thing about Debauchery, and other select pinku/roman porno titles, they actually managed to fill their moves with content to go with all of the naughtiness. Although it takes several teases to get to it, when the first huge sex scene takes place, it proves to be unrelenting in its explicitness. Numerous sexual positions and styles are performed, and perversities are on display that would shock even the most jaded Skinemax fan. The sequence revolving around the bald man takes up a considerably amount of screen time, and although it becomes almost humorous in its length, the scene does have a dramatic purpose. As the movie rolls along, the sexual experimentation becomes more and more violent. As one might expect, the levels of punishment dealt out in the movie are rather intense. During the previously mentioned sequence, where Watanabe is held up in a standing 69 position, she is apparently dropped on her head by the actor. However, the scene just continues to pace along. Later on, in one of the most intense sequences in the movie, Watanabe is whipped for a very extended period of time. She is even whipped on a very private area multiple times during this sequence. Sexual cruelty and embarrassment are the tools of the day, and while this sort of cruelty isn’t my bag, it almost always makes for interesting narrative devices. S&M has a long history within Japanese cinema in terms of providing some intriguing power plays, and that is precisely the point of Debauchery. The concept of who is playing who, and who is most enjoying what activity, proves the most important facet of this story.

The Conclusion
I believe the heart of Debauchery, if such a thing exists in a morbid piece of softcore, comes in its look at the married husband and wife dynamic. However, this is a movie that can be taken in many different forms. While I find myself continually focusing on the husband/wife relationship, there is a lot to be said about human nature and unfulfilled sexual desires. Some key areas do generally lack in originality, but the entertainment value skyrockets as this movie continues onward. While I hesitate to call it one of the very best within the Nikkatsu catalog, I would say that it seems heavily underrated. I give the movie a solid four out of five. That is very high for me, and I certainly recommend it. Sure, this is general genre-film pap in some regards, but it is incredibly interesting pap with a great deal of vision. Enjoy it for what it is!