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Story of a Prostitute

(Shunpu den)
Japan 1965. Dir: Seijun Suzuki. 96 min. 35mm

Suzuki favourite Yumiko Nogawa gives perhaps her most ferocious performance in this scathing portrayal of Japanese militarism pre-WWII. Sent with six other comfort women to service a garrison of some 1,000 men in Manchuria during the Sino-Japanese War, Nogawa’s Harumi is brutalized by a vicious lieutenant who wants her as his personal property. Meanwhile, she falls in love with his gentle young assistant. Taijiro Tamura’s novel was previously made into 1950’s much-sanitized Escape at Dawn (scripted by Kurosawa). Working in B-movies allowed Suzuki to use the genre’s expected sex and violence to advance the view he shared with Tamura: “that the sex-drive is a crucial part of the human will to live” (Tony Rayns). “The movie that proves Suzuki should be lifted out of the limiting category of the Asia Extreme cult directors and placed at the grown-ups’ table” (David Chute, The Criterion Current). Print courtesy The Japan Foundation.