This is Tomoaki Hosoyama, the Japanese film director who whipped up a perfect storm with his cult hit, Weatherwoman, an adaptation of the popular manga Otenki Onasan.
Somehow, Mr. Hosoyama performed the impossible. This is what he did:
After making a movie destined for Japan's lucrative direct-to-video market for the princely sum of $500K, it was decided that the film would should play at several international film festivals while simultaneously arriving in Nippon video stores. The film socked it to the competition at the Arctic Light Film Festival in Sweden, the Oslo International Film Festival in Norway, Film Fest Hamburg, Gijon International Film Festival in Spain, and the Satire and Humor Film Festival in Italy.
So positive was the international response to Tomoaki's one-of-a-kind cinematic confection -- dubbed "The Wildest of Wild Cards" by Variety, and "a truly bizarre film that suggests a marriage between Russ Meyer and John Waters", by Rotten Tomatoes -- that the Japanese distributor decided to book it into Japanese theaters, despite the fact that it had already been released on video.
Guess what happened then?
It became one of Japan's top grossing films in 1996.
Keiko (Kei Mizutani), a tall, attractive woman with a libertine bent, joins a TV network whose ratings are in the doldrums. In an effort to lift them, Keiko decides to sign off on each evening's weather forecast by lifting her skirt and showing viewers her white, cotton panties.
Ratings go through the roof.
Although there are the expected protests by some of the network staff, the big boss gives Keiko the green light to carry on with her erotic weather report.
Unfortunately, the network boss's jealous daughter sets her sights on Keiko's destruction, and challenges her to a bizarre, meteorological duel, in which both women hurl bolts of lightning at one another in a contest to become the supreme network forecaster.
A subplot involving a devoted fan of Keiko is weaved into the proceedings, as are several detours into Keiko's healthy obsession with masturbation and penchant for light bondage.
As surreal as it all sounds, the film works beautifully thanks to Hosoyama's control of and affection for the material. The film is never sleazy or mean-spirited; it is, like a Russ Meyer movie, a celebration of sexuality and female power. It is also a tongue-in-cheek poem to the concept of "nonsense"
A direct-to-video sequel, Weatherwoman Returns, followed a year later.
Hosoyama defines his approach to both films thus:
"In Weatherwoman, the focus was on visual silliness, using people's realistic mentality as flavoring. The main theme running through both Weatherwoman films also happens to be my outlook on life. In nonsense, one finds sense."
Although Weatherwoman marked Mr. Hosoyama's theatrical debut, his bona fides as a filmmaker were already well established with a large body of fascinating work in Japan's pink film trenches.
His pink film baptism by fire was the '84 Family Hooker, a satirical look at a multi-generational family business. The film attracted wanted and unwanted attention because Hosoyama turned it into his graduating thesis for the University of Nippon.
Shot on 35mm, like all his pink films, it is a potent blend of social commentary and dark comedy.
Next up for the director was the '86 Chaotic Love, a grim, mostly autobiographical tome about a man's fruitless search for love and companionship.
It has many surreal touches and manages to convey the desperation inherent in loneliness.
Certainly it is the most nihilistic of Hosoyama's movies.
1987's Big Milk Secreting won the director his first Pink Film Award -- Best New Director.
Starring Eri Kikuchi, who was a big porn star at the time, the film is based on Hosoyama's own personal experiences in the Japanese porn film business.
The theme, however, is not pornography, it is "platonic love", and it focuses on the relationship between a porn star and her agent, and questions whether platonic love is possible in such a strange business.
Yutaka Ikejima (Blind Love, 2005; Subway Serial Rape 4, '88; Lolita Vibrator Torture, '87) who played the agent, received much praise for his engaging, powerful performance.
Again, the film is filled with sadness and pain.
1986's gritty Sumo-Wrestling Girls was directly inspired by Robert Aldrich's equally gritty and highly underrated All The Marbles (aka The California Dolls, '81)
Obviously, Hosoyama swapped the pro-wrestling of Aldrich's action-drama for sumo wrestling.
The film is a good example of how pink film makers subverted genre expectations while still giving the distributor its pound of cinematic flesh.
What Hosoyama achieved with a tiny budget on a week long shoot is remarkable.
The '86 Big Milk Secreting 2 (below) only had its title in common with the first film.
A very different piece in every way, it focuses on the lives of three prostitutes...
...and the difficulties they encounter on a daily basis.
It blends social commentary into a loose, softcore scenario.
Lesbian Colony ('87) is Mr. Hosoyama's love letter to John Waters' Desperate Living ('77), a film that was a strong influence on his early filmmaking, and my early filmmaking, too.
The film differs slightly in its set-up. Instead of being about two female lawbreakers (skinny Mink Stole and mammoth Jean Hill) on the lam who discover Mortville, the town where criminals can live "scot free", Hosoyama's version zeroes in on two ostracized lesbians (social criminals?) who leave Tokyo in search for a world where their kind can live "scot free".
They find a town ruled by an androgynous despot who gives Edith Massey's Queen Carlotta a definite run for her money.
The scene in which a penis sprays fireworks has to be seen to be believed...
... as do several outrageous and audacious scenes of humiliation.
The film is a cavalcade of gleeful perversion...
...with the villain getting her just desserts.
The film's low rent but highly creative art direction would would have pleased John Waters and his ace art director Vincent Peranio
The '88 Love Affairs (above) asks: Why is love so complicated?
It doesn't provide a definitive answer, but it certainly explores why so many distractions ...
... are often mistaken for love.
The film is well shot and lit, and is one of Hosoyama's most tepid genre entries.
Dirty Girl ('89), starring Toyumaru, a Japanese porn star notorious for her "lewd" performances, marked the conclusion of Tomoaki Hosoyama's pink film career.
The actress played herself in the film, and the story drew from her celebrity and infamy.
By this time, Hosoyama had become frustrated by the limitations of the medium, and lack of resources.
The director is currently developing a number of projects including Kieba, a fascinating love story set in the world of horse racing.
One of Japan's unsung heroes of independent cinema, I met Tomoaki more than a decade ago when I was in production on The Masturbating Gunman (aka Masked Avenger...).
In addition to having shared the same amount of earth years, our tastes were virtually identical.
We became and have remained fast friends by mail, telephone, and in person, and are working on a number of co-ventures which we hope to unveil soon.