Sep 8, 2012

Raping (1978)
Director: Yasuharu Hasebe
Starring: Kyôko Aizome, Akira Hanagami and Hirotarô Honda

The Plot: The appropriately titled Raping! follows a lovely young woman who begins a roadtrip to Tokyo, but is instead taken on a nightmare trip into the deepest bowels of hell. Her travels begin with a sequence that shows her trying to be helpful to a stranger who is having automobile troubles on the side of the road. Instead of providing a “thank you” for the assistance, what follows is a very brutal assault. As our leading woman then travels from one destination to the next, we see that the rest of the world wants to take advantage of her as well. Will she be able to stand up for herself, or will these men continue to dominate her life?

The Review
Yasuharu Hasebe is a filmmaker that I have tracked for numerous years. He is the director behind my personal favorite entry into the pinky violence genre, the unforgettable Stray Cat Rock: Girl Boss. Although the Stray Cat Rock series is certainly memorable, his later work within the “violent pink” genre may be where he made his most enduring mark upon the world of cinema. Best known for having crafted a quintet of outrageous and offensive sex movies, these films are far from being remotely politically correct. With these titles, Hasebe may not have created a quintet of artful movies that were essential, or even begged to be made, but the fact that he made these movies is sort of amazing. Each film has something different to say from the last, and each one is completely relentless in its subject matter. Hasebe documents a world that is truly one for men, and these men are completely uncontrollable while giving in to their most base desires at every opportunity. Raping! begins with a roadside sequence where our lead female stops to help a bystander who seems stranded and needs to desperately borrow a tire tool. If you know Hasebe and you’ve experienced the first film in his rape quintet, the aptly titled Rape, then you can already see where this is going. A woman needs do nothing more than present herself and she immediately becomes the target of sexual rage. The sequence is foreboding at the start, due to the rough treatment that our lead character is given by this truck driver who quickly brushes her aside when she tries to help him. His rough handling of her, and his completely condescending attitude, demonstrate everything that Hasebe’s movies are going to say about the male and female dynamic. Men abuse their power, women are subject to the whims of men, and their only compensation is money for the cruelty subjected to them. Welcome to the depressing world of Raping!

If Rape the 13th Hour was Yasuharu Hasebe’s indefensible portrayal of male chauvinism run amuck, then Raping! could possible be construed as his most sensitive film towards women within his Violent Pink run. The movie is told from a woman’s perspective and focuses entirely on a woman’s attempt to fight back against a society that continually abuses her. Unfortunately, along the way she finds it nearly impossible to trust anyone. Even when it seems as if things are going her way, the moment that she runs into a man, the audience can be sure that bad things are about to happen. In one of the most hurtful bait-and-switch moments in the movie, our heroine runs into some car trouble and she is picked up by a mechanic who drops her off at a love hotel so that she can spend the night by herself. At first, we see this mechanic as the only gentleman present in the movie, but those views will soon be shattered. In fact, the owners of the love hotel have sex and stare at our traumatized heroine through a two-way mirror. This character is continually used and abused throughout the duration of the movie. Even while she attempts to rest, she is being used for sexual gratification without her knowledge. As the sex-behind-a-mirror scene progresses, it once again escalates into another scene of horrifying rape. Hasebe’s films present a world that is not suitable for gentle women. This is a world for the hard, for those who can use and be used. Simple people who want to do good or have good things are only chewed up and spit out.

Raping! is structured in almost the exact same way that Hasebe’s Rape was. If you haven’t seen that title, the movie basically revolves around a leading lady who is raped by every man that she comes into contact with. There is no escape from these attacks, because they await her around every corner. Hasebe doesn’t worry with logic and present some sort of deranged town full of lunatics, such as one might find in Two Thousand Maniacs! from Herschel Gordon Lewis, but instead he sets his film in contemporary reality and the movie becomes slightly surreal due to its excesses. Although Hasebe would later claim that his movies were simply meant as entertainment, with little thought put into subtext, Raping! seems to both be a sickening look at a male-dominated society, but it also seems to be so excessive that it borders on sarcasm. Indeed, if Raping! were a simple genre movie then it wouldn’t be nearly as surreal. Truly, it is a movie that defies all conventional cinematic logic. After being raped three times in one day, you would think that our young leading lady would be so petrified of all men that she would do her very best to never find herself alone with a member of the opposite sex for as long as she lives. However, that is not the world in which our movie takes place.

Although these logical gaps could be seen as unintentional, there seems to be a “moral” to this entire story that I feel refutes this. Our lead continually remains naive throughout her encounters with these horrible men that somehow float into her life, and this naive and passive attitude seems to be what Hasebe wants to make a statement on. The ultimate goal for this character is to set aside her naive view of mankind, and instead fight back and take control of the weak-willed men who attempt to control her. While at a police station during the early half of the film, our leading lady is being searched and abused by the police department. However, while she is being persecuted, our lead character witnesses a free-spirited prostitute. This prostitute is a woman who doesn’t let the male-dominated system control her. Despite laying down with men for money, she won’t allow herself to be subjugated to their authority. She makes fun of them, these police officers who display great power, and uses their own sense of purity against them. Despite these men of authority attempting to have control over her, this prostitute controls her sexual spirit and flaunts it in a way that makes these officers uncomfortable. In not having control over this woman, she removes their power and inevitably walks away free. Eventually our leading lady has several run-ins with this prostitute, and she eventually offers this sage advice: “If you don’t say anything or do anything, the world will take advantage of you. When you’re like me, that’s the end.” Although this prostitute has reached an apex of anti-establishment behavior that has stricken all happiness from her life, she also represents a being who has rebelled against popular opinion. When men try to make demands of her, she scoffs at them or puts them in her place. She is the opposite of our heroine. Perhaps Hasebe hopes for a future in which our heroine can find a middle-ground. Maybe she can be her own figure, in control of herself, but retain her own sense of self-worth and optimism. However, in the world that Hasebe has created, few characters are permitted an optimistic view of life.

The Conclusion
It is very hard to recommend a film like Raping! Some will understand my views on the film, but some others will look at this difficult subject matter and refuse to view the movie as anything other than offensive exploitation. If you ask me, this is a film about the loss of innocence and a fight for equality. However, it dips into several other themes along the way. If you like Hasebe, and you don’t mind some very troubling content, then definitely give this one a look. I give it a four out of five.