“(…) uncovers the very silliness men can attain in the field of the sexual (…) [and] shows (…) that only women can go beyond that manly silliness (…) and have a victorious freedom.”
When Nikkatsu was facing bankruptcy in 1971, a shift from action to sexploitation narratives, labeled as Roman Porno, became their saviour. In the years that followed more than 800 titles were produced until May 1988, when the competition of the straight-to-video pornography and the increasing popularity of television put an end to the label.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Roman Porno label in 2016, Nikkatsu decided to reboot the label, once again opening the field for playful experimentation and creative cinematic expression. For this reboot, Nikkatsu invited Akihiko Shiota, known for narratives like Moonlight whispers (1999), Harmful insect (2001) and Dororo (2007), to create a feature of maximum 80 minutes under pretty much the same limitations in time and money as then, while while sprinkling the narrative with erotic scenes.
Only given the theme battle to orient his narrative with, can Akihiko Shiota’s narrative attain the same social and, as sexuality and love is a driving force in human relationships, psychological relevance Roman Porno once had in its heyday (General- note 1)?
One day, while Kosuke Kashiwagi (Tasuku Nagaoka), a playwright who escaped Tokyo’s metropolitan life to seclude himself in a forest, is reading a book at the harbor, Shiori (Yuki Mamiya) rides her bicycle straight into the water. Emerging from the water, she reveals her chest undisturbed, while asking him, point-blank, to set her up for the night. Kosuke coldly ignores her. Not in the least pleased, Shiori decides to follow Kosuke to try to catch his attention. And even though Kosuke keeps brushing her off, Shiori reveals that she has set her eyes on him and swears to make him want her. When Kosuke and Yuzawa, a friend of Kosuke, go fetch coffee beans at the café in the town, he accidentally meets her again. Later, the former theater troupe and its female director, who lusts for him, visit Kosuke. Will Shiori obtain what she is striving for?
While the narrative might be comedic in nature, often bordering on the silly, it also provides a more serious commentary on the positions of each gender sexuality conditions. Wet Woman in the wind structures itself around the oppositional terms of objectivity/subjectivity, while putting the simple phallic orientation so characteristic of men in all its ridiculousness on display (narra-note 1). Confronted with the disdaining reluctance Kosuke shows towards her sexual openness, the uncomplicated way in which she experiences her sexuality, Shiori has no other weapon than her seductive sexuality. She present herself as an object for men to enjoy sexually, implying vaguely along the way that some women only find enjoyment in such objectification as such.
The effect that Shiori’s willingness to be reduced to a mere sexual object in the eyes of men produces might be surprising for the spectator. Besides glancing at the male sexual aggression such objectification invites, the male competition it instigates, and indicating that male self-worth is often derived from, as they have the imaginary phallus, the imaginary possession of women, Shiori playfully reveals that her subjectivity goes beyond any kind of objectification whatsoever and that the real objectification should be situated at the side of the males (Kosuke, Kobouchi, …): the true objects of the narrative are the men. They do not realize that in Shiori’s battle they are revealed, as they believe they have the imaginary phallus, as faithfully following their real phallus. If there is something that this narrative uncovers vividly, it is the very silliness of the male phallic position, their position as limited by imagining oneself as the imaginary phallus, in sexuality (psycho-note 1).
Given the limited time and budget, it might be surprising that Wet Woman in the Wind boasts some marvelous and powerful compositions – underlining once more the talent of Akihiko Shiota (cine-note 1). Each narrative space, especially the forest where Kosuke lives, is used in the guise of a canvas on which the non-erotic interactions and the erotic encounters are painted on. The long takes, by which the battle of our wet woman is framed, puts the weight on the acting and the chemistry between actors as such. Both Tasuku Nagoaka and Yuki Mamiya give great performances as their respective characters, but, more importantly, it is the chemistry between them and the sensible tension between the rather stoic Kosuke and the playful energetic Shiori they evoke, that catches the spectators wish to know if she will succeed and, if she succeeds, how she succeeds.
The narrative catalyst of Wet Woman in the Wind is to be situated in the character of Shiori. All the silly surprising twists and turns of the narrative are caused by her unpredictability, the aphrodisiac nature of her sexuality, or the seductive objectification of men she introduces. And while many sex-scenes – especially the way in which the men are framed within these scenes – border on the comical and the ridiculousness, the energetic final third of the narrative, nevertheless, proves to be tantalizing in many ways.
Wet Woman in the wind proves to be one funny hell of an erotic battle, with some very powerful and poetic compositions and scenes to boot. And while it uncovers the very silliness men can attain in the field of the sexual – the imaginary phallus as farce, it also shows vividly that only women can go beyond that manly silliness, and that, in a battle of eroticism, only woman have a victorious freedom.
General note 1: This review was first published in a slightly altered form on Asian Film Vault.
Cine-note 1: One such shot is the shot that follows the shot of the surfer and Shiori having sex in Kosuke’s forest cabin. While the surfer, at a loss for words and embarrassed, and Shiori dwindles around the cabin, Kosuke, in his stoic manner, serves them coffee.
Narra-note 1: This is also revealed by the signifier of Dog and Tiger. While Kosuke calls Shiori a stray dog, Shiori’s sexuality – she as tiger – reveals kosuke as the loyal dog. Facing the tiger woman’s sexuality is, men seem to display a far reaching loyalty to the imaginary phallus they think they possess for a woman.
Psycho-note 1: The imaginary Phallus is the enigmatic image – one doesn’t know what is is, that is considered to be desired by the Other. It is important to underline that the their is not concrete and always stays vague. The male subject can feel as if he possesses the imaginary phallus without knowing what he possesses – I have “it”.