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OK, so we’re sticking to a theme.  After reviewing Pink Eiga’s enjoyable pinky violence/manga/softcore hybrid S&M Hunter Begins, we tackle another film from director Osamu Sato (New Tokyo Decadence: The Slave), the somewhat mixed bag that is 3 Slave Women.

If you were expecting some sort of shocked commentary on the rampant misogyny on display or what have you…forget it.   This is what, if we’re being honest, sexual liasons if not relationships per se are all about.  When all’s said and done, and you boil it down to the essentials, one partner is always in submission to the other.  One dominates.  The other craves it.  Equality means switching roles when the situation dictates…

A middle aged couple opens the film, chattering about banalities.  She has a psychosomatic toothache, their daughter Aki is apparently a bit of an attention seeking brat, and they’re afraid to discipline her…pretty much the story of every American bourgeouise family these days, to judge by what everyone can plainly see from random trips out among the general public.  Ho hum.

But tomorrow night, the husband has invited over a special guest (Seiji Nakamatsu, of the 2005 Secret in the Attic, The Orgasm Counselor, Lonely Cow Weeps at Dawn and Deep Contact).  The wife (Maki Tomoda, Slave Ship) assumes him to be an animal trainer of some sort.  Boy, is she in for a surprise.

Yeah, we’re in Naomi Tani territory again.  The husband hired a pro to get his uptight wife to loosen up and embrace her inner masochist…it’s all a lot tamer than it sounds, unfortunately.

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“You should let your body be free.”

Fast forward a few months.  Now a dedicated “slave woman”, Tomoda has transformed from a prim, unappealing sort to a reasonably cute if mature ponytailed housewife who now refers to her husband by the somewhat colloquially archaic term “goshujin”…or literally, “master”.

However, all is not well in paradise.   Our (un)happy housewife bemoans her lack of desire under her husband’s clumsy efforts at shibari/kinbaku rope technique, particularly by comparison to the ‘bondage master’ who freed her of her inhibitions (not that we saw him performing any actual bondage during the earlier sequence).  She’s begun seeing him on the side, and informs us that her toothache is in fact temporarily relieved by orgasm and being true to her nature – a real time enactment of the old chestnut “not tonight, I’ve got a headache” LOL.

“I realize my mind and body are but slaves.”

The highlight of their time together comes when he brings her to the beach, puts a rope around her neck and walks her on all fours as a pet.  He then ties her to a wooden cross of sorts, takes some photos to remember her by and walks away from the relationship.

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Enter Eimi (Nao Masaki, also of Slave Ship), “slave girl” number two. A much younger, glasses bedecked cutie in a form fitting white blazer and black wrap skirt (albeit with boring business office pumps), who acts every bit the domme: tossing her paperwork on the floor just to watch, arms folded, as office juniors scramble to pick them up for her, rejecting a clueless marital suitor in her boss (“who’s used to getting what he wants”) with a smirk.

But this apparent femdom is actually a sub in disguise.

“You’re very selfish, like a cat.” the luckless schlub opines, in his lack of insight to her true nature.

“No, I’m pure dog.”

“What the hell do you mean by (that)?” he asks, and the very fact that he doesn’t understand elicits a justifiable snort of derision.  Apparently, he’s never listened to Iggy Pop…

“Since he does not understand me, he is not able to control me.  But my darling is different from him.  He understands me much deeper…”

With her sexy little pout and senna highlights, Masaki is every inch the young ingenue, exploding into crass dialect and overemotionalism in her private life – seeming miles away from her public persona.  But she proves to be well trained for all that…

This time it ends in comedy, with Eimi dumping her trainer, as she peeps in on an absurd, disgusting (if thankfully more suggested than shown) session with an enormously obese girl who farts a lot.

“My master was everything for me until a few minutes ago.  I can’t believe I was jealous of such a pathetic girl. Good bye, master…”

Returning to her boss for a brief if energetic bourgeoise “straight” sex sequence, she finishes off by tying the guy up…and leaving.  “S&M is really a funny thing.” she opines…

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Now it’s time to visit our third “slave woman”, the Aki under discussion in the opening scenes (Asami, of Lady Ninja Reflections of Darkness, Zombie Ass Toilet of the Dead and Machine Girl).  It’s apparently a good decade on, as the ten year old girl of that story is now an adult woman who actually works as a professional dominatrix, complete with pleather bustier and dinner gloves, fishnets and knee high leather stilletto heel boots and absurdly fake eyelashes.  She may not have the greatest face, particularly when compared to the stunning Nao Masaki, but Christ, this girl has an ass and legs on her like nobody’s business…

Offputtingly crass and thuggish in voice and demeanor, the tables turn quickly when she turns out to be a switch.  That’s right, her ‘client’ who she was beating so disgustedly and enragedly mere moments before is actually the same ‘master’ from the last two scenarios.

Chastising her for her misunderstanding of the domme role (“S&M is about love, there’s not supposed to be hatred.  One day, you’ll kill a customer if you play like this.”), he astutely assesses her true nature, ala “dungeon master” Yutaka Ikejima in S&M Hunter Begins:

“You really are a pure masochist…(your manager) asked me to train you.”

In a moment of true self-reflectiveness, the film offers this apropos assessment, which has frustrated generations of men looking to expand their horizons beyond the snooze inducing jock-style “hop on top and pound away” thing (the “missionary position” that provides so much hilarity and amusement to the “primitive” tribes encountering it for the first time by dint of their outsider benefactors):

“You don’t truly understand S&M.  Not just you, but most girls in general…are you scared to show your real personality?”

This sequence is the closest we get to actual sado play, with suspension, light whippings, candle wax and all the stuff people over here have come to expect since the days of such overhyped trash as 9 1/2 Weeks and Body of Evidence.  At least Last Tango in Paris had an existential subtext…

But back on topic to the film in question.  Was it really necessary?  Not really.  Is it particularly erotic?  No, not the way it’s presented here, or with the brevity in which it was.

Aki moves in with Nakamatsu, eventually stumbling across photos of her mother’s sessions, tearing them up in a display of jealousy before devolving into a hilariously bizarre existential metaphor for being spiritually bound to her lover/’master’ for eternity – just wait till you hear this one…then it all turns pretty grim and circular, the events at the start of the film directly leading to those at its conclusion…

If it weren’t for the disgusting lowlife they cast to play the “master”, this film – particularly the Eimi sequence – would be appealing enough and insightful to the base psychological realities addressed herein.  Seriously, does every dom need to be an emaciated, unshaven junkie who looks like they’ve never heard of grooming?  These woman must be true masochists, to submit to a guy like this…

While no Flower and Snake (the Tani version or the similarly excellent former Jpop idol Aya Sugimoto ‘s two likewise titled efforts) and never approaching the delirious heights of the two grand pinnacles of the genre, Star of Dave Beauty Hunting (aka Beautiful Girl Hunter) or Radley Metzger’s The Image, it is fairly typical of the type, which includes such films as Tattooed Flower Vase, Wife to be Sacrificed, Passions of a Private Secretary, Tokyo Decadence, and even Pink Eiga’s own Japanese Wife Next Door pt. 2 and New Tokyo Decadence:The Slave.

Overall, I’d give Three Slave Women a B – the women are attractive enough (particularly Nao Masaki’s Eimi and Asami’s lower half) and the film does have some measure of apt psychological insight as to the true focus and power of the sadomasochistic lifestyle.

But it never really approaches its true potential, with each sequence proving too brief and played to a certain cinematic style – the first, to the older Nikkatsu style eroduction, with its pining woman freed from her self imposed jail sentence, but left bereft in sorrow and defeat at the end; the second, for comedy and a more 90’s sensibility, and the final, for the modern iteration of pink cinema.  In the end, it’s too much of a hybrid – in seeking to be jack of all trades, it ultimately becomes master of none.

While a perfectly acceptable way to spend an hour of your life, and perhaps enlightening to newbies or those who never really considered the underlying themes of domination and submission and their applicability to relationships at large, the film is ultimately neither fish nor fowl, and a bit of a failure at what it represents itself to be.

Pink Eiga fans looking for a bit of a kink are better steered towards a film like Semen Demon, if not to something more directly related to the topic like the Aya Sugimoto Flower and Snake films or what still remains the cinematic offering par excellence of the type, Radley Metzger’s the Image, which has yet to be topped in the dozens of such films over the years to which this reviewer has been exposed.

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