pornography and sexuality (was: Re: censorship cont....)

Mark Schilling schill at
Sat Dec 19 21:57:28 EST 1998

From: Mark Schilling <schill at>
> To: KineJapan at
> Subject: Re: pornography and sexuality (Fazafukka)
> Date: Sunday, December 20, 1998 

I agree with Roger Fischer that "Fazafukka" was an impressive film -- I'm
surprised that it didn't get more attention abroad. I reviewed it for the
Japan Times, as follows:

Father Fucker (The Girl of the Silence) (6/27/95) 
Reviewed by Mark Schilling

Produced by Filmmakers, HoriPro, Pony Canyon; screenplay by Goro Hayazaki;
directed by Genjiro Arato. With: Mami Nakamura, Yoshio Harada, Michio
Akiyama, Kaori Momoi, Ken Kaneko. Running time: 90 mins. 

When I received publicity materials for Genjiro Arato's *Father Fucker,**
my first thought was that this film was going to need a different English
title (It got one -- *The Girl Of the Silence**). My second was that it
would be heavy going. I was wrong. Though its edge is blunted by comic
grotesquery and its visual metaphors are over-abundant and over-obvious --
there are too many flowers of fertility and towers of virility -- the film
tells its dark story with imagination, insight and surprising touches of
humor. Its poetic treatment of its subject takes us deeper in its heroine's
inner world that a conventionally realistic approach would, with its stress
on the sordid (and its undercurrent of exploitation).  
      That story centers on Shizuko (Mami Nakamura), a junior high school
girl who is sexually abused by her stepfather. Soon after the film begins,
she discovers that she is pregnant by a classmate. When her pocket tyrant
of a stepfather (Michio Akiyama) learns the truth, he forces himself on her
as a form of "punishment," while her mother (Kaori Momoi), a slatternly
cabaret hostess, silently acquiesces ("That's the way men are," she tells
the stunned girl). 
      Isolated in this familial hell, Shizuko takes refuge in her
imagination. An aspiring manga artist, she sits at her desk drawing a
different world and dreaming of a different life.
       *Father Fucker** is based on an autobiographical novel by manga
artist Shungiku Uchida that became a controversial bestseller in 1993. In
an interview in Shukan Bunshun Uchida said that when she finally left home
for Tokyo she and her mother quarreled and severed relations. "I realized
that if I were to die, by law everything I had would go to my mother
irrespective of our relationship. So I wrote [the book] out of spite," she
        This is not something that a properly brought-up Japanese woman
could do (even if she wanted to). But Uchida, who in her photographs looks
every inch the boho artist, right down to her dyed hair, hardly had a
proper upbringing. She does, however, seem to possess a dry sense of humor
and an uncommonly strong will. She would rather think of herself as a
survivor than a victim.
      In newcomer Mami Nakamura, we can see this survivor in embryo,
especially in the determined glint of her large, staring eyes. But her
Shizuko is also a 14 year-old girl living in Nagasaki in the late 1960s.
When her real father (Yoshio Harada) leaves in a rage and a strange little
man wearing severe-looking spectacles and a white suit suddenly appears,
she quietly accepts the change, even when it becomes clear that her new
otosama (as he insists she and her younger sister call him) is as nutty as
a fruitcake. In addition to a refrigerator fetish (he loves to polish the
gleaming white door and stare at the clean, cool contents), he has a thing
about proper behavior, as defined by a Japanese male chauvinist and control
freak, circa 1968. He is to be the master of the household and the women,
his devoted servants who jump at his every command (including his command
to jump into bed). 
      Mikio Akiyama, a producer/planner who discovered Uchida and promoted
her manga career, makes an impressive screen acting debut, portraying this
monster of a step-parent with comic precision and acidity. His attitude and
rhythms would be perfect for the social satire of Juzo Itami. In *Father,**
however, they are a touch too jokey for the material. We see the
self-centered ugliness of the stepfather's actions, but not the moral abyss
into which he has fallen.
        He is well balanced by Kaori Momoi, who gives her best performance
in years as the mother. An actress who never got over her days as a
Shinjuku hippie freak, Momoi is often lazy and self-indulgent. In this
film, however, she is superb playing a woman whose resignation to evil
becomes another form of abuse. Even the way she stolidly washes the rice,
while her daughter is being raped in the next room, speak eloquently about
the mother's character -- or rather lack of it.
         The film's most intriguing scenes, however, are those that take
leave of reality altogether and explore Shizuko's inner world. Directing
his first film after a long career as an independent producer (Seijun
Suzuki's *Zigeuner Weisen,** Tamasaburo Bando's *Gekashitsu**), Genjiro
Arato skillfully traces Shizuko's emergence from wounded girlhood into
defiant womanhood through symbolic images and dreams, including a series of
imaginary conversations that she holds with her father in a younger,
long-haired incarnation. 
      This father, played by Ken Kaneko, is understanding, supportive, kind
-- everything the adults in her life are not. Their conversations take
place in a white school clinic -- a "safe zone" where Shizuko can have her
drawings and even a big tank of colorful fish. A place, in other words,
where she can breathe freely. We see that her dream life makes it possible
for her to resist the destructive forces in her real life and finally
escape them. Her dreams may be more brightly colored and romantic than
those of the real Shizuko, but they have a wholeness and vitality of their
own. A movie about one of lowest acts a human being can commit ends as a
testament to the strength of the human spirit.                    

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