Erotic Diary of an Office Lady (1977)
Director: Masaru Konuma
Starring: Asami Ogawa, Michio Hino, and Tatsuya Hamaguchi

The Plot: Asami is an office lady. This is of course a rather mundane work life, and unfortunately Asami’s social life doesn’t quite make up for it. Her on-again/off-again boss/boyfriend doesn’t seem to have a great deal of affection for her, yet she seems to have feelings for him. At the office, she keeps her eyes on Komako, the oldest girl on her floor, who has a reputation for sleeping with many of her male coworkers. Komako just wants to be loved, but she finds that within this male-dominated world, she is continually used and cast aside. When Asami finally has a sit-down conversation with Komako, she discovers that the woman is supposed to be celebrating her birthday the following day, so Asami invites her to her home to have dinner with she and her father. On this same day, Asami meets a very peculiar man walking down the street. He appears to be mentally slow, however, the strange young man comes close to attacking Asami, but he ultimately listens to her demands. As strange as it is, Asami and the young man become fast friends. Meanwhile, Komako is also becoming fast friends with Asami’s father. Asami ultimately finds herself torn between the affection that she has felt reciprocated with this stranger, and the feelings that she still has for her boss.

The Review
Going into the film, and reading the plot synopsis about a woman who continually watches as her male superiors use the office ladies as a tool for getting off, I expected a film that would probably show off a decent amount of cheesecake while also exploring gender roles. It would be a very typical outlet for a Nikkatsu sex film, but at the same time that is precisely what makes these films so strong. They are equal parts exploitation and surprising social commentary. The movies usually don’t hide their duplicitous meanings, but it is up to the viewer whether or not they will give them credence. Erotic Diary of an Office Lady lived up to expectations in this regard, but the gender politics turned out to be much more in the open than even I would have expected. In a pivotal moment within the film, Asami Ogawa spends a moment with her “loose” coworker on the roof of their office building. She explains that despite having been with numerous men, she has found herself continually unlucky in love. This also seems to be an extension of her designated place within their work environment. She can give everything that she has to the job, including her body, but she will never become a section chief. She can never move up. Her only achievement would be to become “an office beauty.” As she concludes her twenties, she can see the end of her career on the horizon. In this world, men can grow old and work until retirement, but for women, their shelf life extends only as far as their beauty holds up. Now, take this sentiment and add a healthy dose of sexuality, and you have a mild understanding of the complex and alluring Erotic Diary of an Office Lady.

Erotic Diary of an Office Lady is yet another Masaru Konuma joint covered here on Varied Celluloid. With this film, the talented roman porno director once again shows his versatility. Best known for his work with Naomi Tani and the world of S&M (Wife to be Sacrificed, Tattooed Flower Vase, etc.), Konuma shows here that he could tackle nearly any topic and find a way to make it much more than just simple erotica. In comparison to the Naomi Tani films, Office Lady might seem a bit tame as far as the sex is concerned, but it’s still the sort of work that will scare away most prudes. With scenes of simulated oral sex and excessively long nude sequences, this one earns its “roman porno” classification. However, despite the scenes of sex and naughtiness, there is more story floating around in Erotic Diary… than some audiences might expect. Being a fan of this genre, I am always excited to see filmmakers do things differently and take chances. It is what makes this genre so satisfying, as the ideal roman porno will always deliver something unique within the confines of a “sexy movie.” Erotic Diary… does just this, by marketing itself as a office-based sex romp, the film lures the viewer in to a story that is filled with societal criticisms and a dull anger that brims beneath the celluloid.

Asami Ogawa is an actress who will probably only ever be known in the West by the dedicated fans of Nikkatsu erotic films. It is unfortunate that her talents didn’t take her into larger roles, ones that might have been seen by more viewers, but she certainly has had an impact on myself just from the few roles that I have seen her in. Notably, she is fantastic in both this film as well as Yasuharu Hasebe’s Attack! With a girl-next-door look, Ogawa was able to convey a lot more than just naivete. She could play a scorned woman very well, and the subtle ways in which she could express melancholy showed off a wide range within the actress. Starting off her career with this film, she was able to take control of the screen despite her lack of experience. Whether it was Konuma being a strong ally within the film, or whether the character was simply one in which Asami felt that she could wholly grow into, this is not your typical roman porno role. She isn’t glassy eyed or simply accepting of what this male-dominated-society has in store for her. When Asami is taken advantage of, there are tears, there is a sense of hopelessness, anger, and fear within her eyes. This is not a doll for objectification, Ogawa presents her character as a three dimensional being that longs for respect and love. It is really one of the most fleshed out performances that I have seen within this genre.

The film is filled with absolutely spectacular visuals, as one might expect. Filled to the brim with amazing sets and intriguing fashion, there are few dull moments within the film – and even some sequences that are genuinely jaw-dropping. During one such scene, we see Asami and her new man making love in front of the camera, but the kicker is that they are completely surrounded by thousands of baby chicks. It is as bizarre as it sounds, but it somehow works within the context of the film. We are seeing Asami actually enjoying her love life for the first time at this point, and at the same time we see thousands of newborn baby chicks surrounding the couple, obviously reflecting a rebirth. Other brilliant sequences show off some highly over-the-top decorative pieces and some stunning picturesque landscapes. In one of the more unique shots in the film, we start the camera in a position that shows off a wondrous mountain-scape that is surrounded by a lake, and to top it off the scene is shot at the cusp of darkness. As we absorb this, the camera begins to dolly backwards and we see Asami standing in a door frame with the mountains now in the background. The camera lingers on her and moves into a long take where she begins to confront her on-again/off-again married boyfriend. The entire sequence seems as if it was shot in a very quick fashion, because in the two or three cuts that are actually made during this scene, we watch as the sun fades off into the distance and the day fades into night right before our eyes. This is one of the few moments in a pink film where I have become completely absorbed into the magic of cinema and felt myself in complete awe by the reality and beauty of what a filmmaker could accomplish.

The Conclusion
This is the first Roman Porno that I have seen that features heavy rock on the soundtrack. I think that says a lot about how different this movie really is. It isn’t an arousing film, and at no point did I think that it was supposed to be. This is a character-driven story that defies many of the conventions within the genre. This isn’t a story about office-sexy-times, it’s about freeing yourself of societal expectations, being yourself, and blazing your own path. Are these ideas new in their own right? Not at all, but the way in which the film looks to deliver upon these ideas is what makes it seem rather special. It is overall one of the stronger roman porno films that I have seen in a while, and I do plan on revisiting sometime in the near future. For my rating, I teetered upon giving it a perfect 5 score. However, I reserve that final point only due to the divisive nature this title may have. Some others may see none of the above-mentioned characteristics, but for the few souls out there of a similar temperament – this is one that should not be missed.