Tattooed Flower Vase (1976)
Director: Masaru Konuma
Writers: Kiyoharu Matsuoka
Starring: Naomi Tani, Takako Kitagawa, Shin Nakamaru, and Genshu Hanayagi

The Plot: Michiyo (Naomi Tani) is a widow who has recently welcomed her step daughter Takako (Shin Nakamaru) back into her home. Michiyo is a frustrated woman who has faced many sexual horrors within recent years, namely a rape from a familiar businessman who took advantage of her. This horrible scene was actually witnessed by Takako, who has also developed a very distant and strange relationship with Michiyo. Takako begins to settle down, but unfortunately she finds herself in a car accident with a young man named Hideo. Hideo also happens to be the son of the businessman who raped Michiyo in the past. Despite this, Takako begins a sexual relationship with Hideo. Things become even more complicated when it becomes apparent that Hideo also hopes to pursue a sexual relationship with Michiyo. What follows is an extraordinarily odd love triangle that takes some very unconventional turns.

The Review
There is something very special about Nikkatsu’s roman porno line of films. Starting off as a line that intended on being the bigger budget and much glossier version of the burgeoning pinku genre, a genre of sexually-charged experimental films that had been doing phenomenally well on the independent circuit, at some point the roman porno line started to become something else entirely. Money increases motivation in all things, but when Nikkatsu came to pinku star Naomi Tani and offered her a contract, she at first turned them down cold. She was sure that the S&M genre was where her future would reside, but Nikkatsu was afraid to enter those waters at first. However, when she was eventually brought onboard, with the intention of allowing her to move into her own genre, her first two films turned out to be the extremely successful Flower and Snake and Wife To Be Sacrificed. After this, Nikkatsu producers were much more open to the S&M marketplace. Known for the fact that she took her work as an erotic artist very serious, in every scene of Tattooed Flower Vase it becomes incredibly evident that Naomi Tani would give everything that she had for her performance. Whether it is in being roughly handled or sinking deep into her character, Tani made her performances “real.” The same could certainly be said about her performance in Tattooed Flower Vase. Crafting a character who starts off in one direction but inevitably becomes something entirely different, Tani makes the change seem organic. Along the way she also manages to entice the screen and craft one very sensual roman porno.

The plot for the film seems as if it is something ripped directly from the penthouse forum. Father and mother vying for the same guy, it’s the envy of many redblooded males. Especially when the girls in question are the voluptuous Naomi Tani and the beautiful Shin Nakamaru. Still, with only two or three sentences the plot for this film can easily be summed up. With no surprises initially coming in the narrative, instead the audience must rely on the performances and characters to bring something new and interesting to the table. The first thing that really manages to set Tattooed Flower Vase apart in terms of plot is the slightly nefarious twist of the male character who comes between (no pun intended) this mother and daughter duo. Although it would be wrong to call his attitude blatantly evil, he is played with a lack of empathy or emotion. His stern face gives an attitude that lacks emotion, and he only seems to break his stoney stare whenever he makes love. The character manages to be the first conflicting addition to the narrative, but as the third act arrives, it turns out that he isn’t the last deviation from convention.

Tattooed Flower Vase is a relatively early roman porno title that catches the genre in the midst of its change from being big budget classy erotic films and turning into the more exploitative subgenre that it would eventually become. While this is certainly not a movie that you want to turn on whenever you invite the family over, Tattooed Flower Vase does seem a bit tame in comparison to some later productions. However, what it might lack in exploitative elements, it makes up for with pure sensuality. Naomi Tani may not find herself bound and gagged within this particular feature, but she instead manages to excite just about every red blooded heterosexual male in the audience. Her transition within the film is far from subtle and this change is where her sexiness comes from. She starts off as the quiet and subservient female, but once she makes her twist within the film, she becomes a force of pure sensuality. Covering herself in tattoos and showing off her curvy body, Tattooed Flower Vase is a brave performance from an actress who believed in her sexuality and was able to turn her simplest movements into erotic poetry.

The big switch for Tani’s character is ultimately where the movie develops into something engaging. Up until this point, everything seemed to hing upon a love triangle. Surely, we’ve seen this numerous times within film. However, the transformation that Tani goes through finally gives depth and purpose to the film. The audience may not have realized it, but this is where the story has been heading the entire time. While on the surface this too seems to give way to a known genre thesis: the woman in search of her sexuality who finally finds it. However, I am of the opinion that the transformation that Tani goes through during the third act is a bit more complicated than that. As a character, she finds herself pining for her own daughter’s love interest, but when she finds herself making love with this young man it seems as if things have finally went too far for her. After the pair have made love, Tani’s daughter then shows up and our stud proceeds to make love with her whilst Tani’s character remains helpless watching in the shadows. What follows is a surrealist vision of kabuki theater that plays out in a short dream sequence (a theme that runs throughout the movie). In these kabuki enactments we see her jealousy and anger thriving, but in the real world she turns to pleasing herself whilst hidden. A very tabboo and contrasting idea, the twists then start to develop further and we are never sure if this character begins to go through a stage where she must punish herself because of her sexual sins, or if she is only allowing herself to express the sexual frustration that has built up within her for years.

The Conclusion
For fans of Japanese exploitation who are looking for a look at the actual “romantic” part of the roman porno, this seems like a pretty solid place to begin. Not too outlandish and perfectly suitable for audiences (or couples) who are looking to get a better view of this complex line of films, I highly recommend Tattooed Flower Vase. It finds the perfect blend between being sexy and being artistic, I can’t help but give it a solid four out of five. Certainly look this one up.