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The Asian ApertureSing a Song of Sex (1967)
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, May 20, 2012    Share

Nagisa Oshima’s Sing a Song of Sex is an exciting movie about what happens when the lines between fantasy and reality blur and anarchy sets in. The movie begins with two high school boys who have just finished taking their college entrance exams and are waiting around for the results. As most boys do, they hang out and look at pretty girls walking by and are too shy to talk to them. One of them has a crush on a girl who walks up and signs a petition to protest the Vietnam War. They boys sneak up behind her to learn her name, but she cleverly evades them by signing her family name followed by three x’s.

Next, the boys meet up with two others and eventually they are walking together with three female classmates. They are off to spend a wild night with their teacher, Mr. Otake, played by Juzo Itami. Itami was a radical director who made Tampopo, A Taxing Woman, The Funeral, and his Yakuza satire Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion. After releasing Minbo in 1992, Juzo Itami was slashed in the face and severely beaten for portraying the Yakuza negatively. His mysterious death in 1997 was called a suicide but it is very possible that it was a Yakuza hit.

The students end up in a restaurant with the boys looking bored on one side of the table and the girls sucking up to Mr. Otake on the other. Mr. Otake is drunk and starts singing a bawdy song about sex. The girls cheer him on and the boys just keep looking bored. Finally after the whole bar sings the same sex song, it is time to depart.
The gang wanders the streets of Shinjuku with neon glowing lights with the girls holding up Mr. Otake, who can barely walk at this point, with the boys following like sheep behind. Here is where Oshima’s cinematography really shines as the viewer is treated to what the Shinjuku area looked like back in 1967. Wonderful shots of buildings and cars that reveal what Japan was like in the turbulent 60’s.

Mr. Otake rents a hotel room for his students. The boys are in one room and the girls in another. The drunk boys try various ways to get into the girls’ room, to which they are brutally rejected. Doors slam and conversations turn to the girls yelling at the boys to go to bed and sleep. Inside the boys room the usual rough housing and pulling pranks on one another continues throughout the night. One boy needs a pen to write a message to the girls so he enters Mr. Otake’s room to find the man passed on with the gas heater on. He looks at his teacher and recites the sex song. Then he leaves.
The next morning the girls are crying as the boys are just walking up. The boys soon discover that Mr. Otake has died during the night from exposure to gas that filled up his room. The boys don’t seem to care and the girls reprimand them for this attitude. Finally the group separates after speaking to the police.

The world of fantasy is illustrated by a scene of the boys sitting on the steps inside a station and talking about raping the girl in seat number 469. She is the one at the beginning who signed the petition. Scenes of the girl behind the lectern, as different boys take their turns, show no sex at all, which makes the rape seem worse. In the middle of this fantasy, one of the girls finds the boys and sits down to listen.

That night the gang finds a group playing acoustic guitars and singing folk songs in English like This Land is Your Land. They are also protesting the Vietnam War. The girl walks up to the group and takes the mike to sing a song about a prostitute trying to lure customers. This is her fantasy of life outside the protection of a shelter schoolgirl life. Next, we see some of the protestors carrying her off to be raped. Reality and fantasy have crossed and when the schoolgirl returns she is in a shocking catatonic state. The schoolgirl known as 469 is singing to a crowd. The boys walk up and interrupt her singing to say that they fantasized about raping her inside the examination room. She tells them to really rape her if that is what they wish. The group meets inside the school and the familiar examination room. The boys seem scared but are egged on to do it by 469. Eventually they tear her clothes off and drag her to the front and lay her down. What one of the boys does is worse than rape as fantasy dissolves into shocking reality.

Oshima has created a stunning view of what happens with innocent youth suddenly change to juvenile delinquents and the differences between boys and girls and fantasy vs. reality. There are several binary opposites that run throughout Sing a Sex of Song that create interesting conflicts with shocking resolutions.

Sing a Song of Sex is available on DVD by Eclipse, as part of the DVD box set, Oshima’s Outlaw Sixties.

Highly recommended

4 out of 5 Stars

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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