Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Female Teacher: In Front of the Students

What's to be said about Yasuro Uegaki's Female Teacher: In Front of the Students (just out from Impulse/Synapse) is all good. Very, very good, in fact.

Nikkatsu, the old Japanese film studio that, after sixty years, suddenly turned dark and erotic to make ends meet, has, admittedly, made its share of lame efforts such as Nympho Diver and I Like It From Behind, both recently released by Impulse/Synapse. I suppose some folks bought them, but, for mine, they have little appeal because they're doing nothing that hundreds of British and American softcore porn flicks haven't already done.

You can't say the same about Nikkatsu flicks like Assault - Jack The Ripper, Rape!, White Rose Campus - Then, Everybody Gets Raped, Sex Hunter - Wet Target, Sex Hunter (the Ikeda film), Secret Chronicle - She Beast Market, and Zoop Up - Rape Site. All of these feature exploitation elements that are very culture-specific, and do not shun the sticky mix of sexual violence and eroticism that many Western films are afraid of.  Although S/M is being mainstreamed (and reduced to blandly flavored vanilla) by works of dubious literary merit such as 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (a massive bestseller), its harsher, more incendiary essence has been shaved away.

Nothing is shaved away in Impulse/Synapse's Female Teacher: In Front of the Students, a truly subversive Nikkatsu flick that some would describe as "troubling" for its perspective on rape. To take its politics too seriously would be to misunderstand its intentions. It is, afterall, a skin flick for a skin flick audience, so it takes a fantasy often imagined by women to its natural end point. If you think it condones the view that a raped woman can be sexually charged by the resulting trauma, you're projecting too hard. This is fantasy Japan-style, not reality.

The pretty Rushia Santo is 'Reiko', a new teacher at an elite high school. Forced to discipline a group of spoilt brats led by the particularly nasty Takuya (Toru Nakane), she finds herself intimidated by the boy. After an unnerving exchange with the group, Reiko is raped in one of the school's showers. Humiliated, she doesn't report the rape, but she keeps a piece of a jigsaw puzzle dropped at the scene by the masked rapist. Over the next few days, she attempts to identify her attacker, and flashes back to key images of the rape, but  her search is sidelined by a series of highly erotic seductions that relight the fire of the incident.

Like Toshiharu Ikeda's little-seen Sex Hunter (not be confused with Sex Hunter - Wet Target) and the notorious Captured For Sex 2, Female Teacher: In Front of the Students exudes an atmosphere of sexual nihilism and abandon that is downright intoxicating. Director Uegaki demonstrates a superb eye and flair for dark eroticism, and creates a seventy minute masterpiece that sucks us into a sexual maelstrom while never ignoring the story's emotional journey. Santo is excellent as a woman on an odyssey of deep exploration, and delivers a strong emotional, physical, and intensely sexual performance as a teacher torn between tradition and the delicious call of the dark.

The film has an amazing look. It's gritty and beautiful all at once, and the compositions, subtle camera moves, and extreme close-ups are striking. The sex runs the gamut from hetero to lesbian, and there is a potent threeway worked into the mix. The narrative never flags, and the sense of anxiety experienced by Reiko is always felt by the audience.

A great selection from Impulse/Synapse, and, hopefully, a sign of the direction future releases will take. Films like this offer a rare and exotic glimpse into the human mind, and underline why nobody does it better than the Japanese.

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