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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD. Third Window Films.

Underwater LoveIf you don’t know what Pink Films are, you’re probably visiting the wrong website, but to summarise – these are a peculiarly Japanese form of soft porn that, thanks to a combination of censorship rules and Japanese culture, developed in a very different direction from their US and European counterparts, and would provide a good place for the nation’s filmmakers to learn their craft. These films usually had sex and the centre of their story, but were often less obsessed with filling the screen with softcore scenes, allowing some oddball, interesting and occasionally disturbing films to emerge.

While a genre in decline, the pinku received a shot in the arm with this very strange movie, which is something of a pink film / arthouse hybrid. A lot of fuss has been made about the presence of famed cinematographer Christopher Doyle (there are no less than three interviews with him on the DVD), though quite what his name means outside the rarefied cineaste world is anyone’s guess, while cult electro-pop duo Stereo Total have provided the musical score (included in early editions as a bonus disc).
Of course, when people who might consider themselves to be above a genre decide to do their own take on it, the results are not always successful, but in the hands of veteran director Imoaka Shinji, Underwater Love is an entertainingly demented effort that is both ludicrous and touching. Oh, and it’s a musical, with incongruous and incomprehensible song-and-dance numbers scattered throughout.

Underwater Love35 year old Asuka (Masaki Sawa) works in a fish factory and is engaged to her boss, but her world is turned upside down when she meets a Kappa – a creature from Japanese mythology that is a water-dwelling, cucumber-munching, half-man, half-turtle. The Kappa turns out to be the reincarnation of dead high school friend Aoki (Unezzawa Yoshihiro), and before long, he’s turned up at her home, sitting in her tub, and then takes a job at her factory (his appearance written off as a medical condition). While Asuka and her fiancé argue about his presence, and Aoki hooks up with a comely factory girl who is all-too-happy to have sex with the prodigiously endowed Kappa, it eventually turns out that he’s here to save his schoolboy crush from the God of Death, who has decided that it is her time to die. Only the Anal Pearl can save her…

Shot in five days on single takes, Underwater Love is endearingly silly. The Kappa makeup is laughably bad, but the presence of this creature is accepted without question by everyone in the film (as monsters go, Kappas seem an entirely harmless bunch), and delirious scenes such as the Kappa blow job and the nutty dance numbers will have even the most hardened Japanese movie fan chortling. But as a counter-point to the silliness, Masaki Sawa gives a genuinely excellent, restrained performance as a woman who rediscovers the joy of life through her unexpected guest.

As far as the sex scenes go – while there are a handful, anyone watching this expecting a soft porn film will probably feel short-changed. It’s better to see the pinku elements as simply another ingredient in what is a very, very strange, but also very, very entertaining film.





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