Producers of ‘pink’ films – softcore features shot on 35mm film – rarely made them in color in the 1960s; the low budgets wouldn’t allow it. Directed by Mukai Kan and released by the Kokuei company in 1969, Blue Film Woman is the rare pink film from the 1960s to be all color. (Color was then more commonly used in pink films only for the bed scenes.)
The film also reflects its era of go-go excess and exploration, with an opening that features sitar music, colorful psychedelic light effects and hallucinatory glimpses of an unclothed female body. The story, however, switches gear abruptly to a melodrama of a more conventional type: an Osaka stock trader, Sakata (Shima Ryuji), loses everything when his shares plunge. His wife (Koyanagi Rika) and daughter Mariko (Hashimoto Miki) stop him from committing suicide, but his backer, the elderly rogue Uchiyama (Fujii Mitsugu), refuses to give him more time to pay back his crushing loan.
When Sakata and his wife tell Uchiyama they will ‘do anything’ to avoid ruin, however, the old shark agrees to an interest-free payment extension on one condition: sex with the wife in the second-floor bedroom while Sakata waits in the first-floor library. The wife reluctantly agrees and is carrying out her part of the bargain when Mariko arrives home from school and glimpses her with Uchiyama in flagrante delicto.
Then Uchiyama comes up with another perverted idea: in return for a longer grace period on the loan the wife will initiate his mentally defective son Hiroshi into the delights of the flesh. She again agrees, but horror and tragedy follow. Her mother now dead and her father bedridden, Mariko drops out of school and becomes a dancer in a club, but preserves her virtue despite a sudden sexual assault by the club’s loutish manager. Then her dad dies and Mariko becomes determined to get revenge on Uchiyama. Her plan: use her body to raise money, then buy stocks and beat the dirty old man at his own game.
As played by newcomer Hashimoto Miki, Mariko is not the usual pink film object of lust: a properly raised girl from a middle-class family, she enters the sex industry with reluctance. But Mariko shows she is her father’s daughter in coolly selling her virginity for a staggering sum and cleverly scheming to make her businessmen clients pay in unexpected ways for their night of fun.
The film is not the ode to female empowerment this plot summary implies, unfortunately. One reason was no doubt the target audience – men much like Mariko’s middle-aged victims, who in 1969 were inclined to view ‘women’s liberation’ with alarm or disdain. Another was a more general cultural preference for tortured heroines over triumphant ones. Even so, Blue Film Woman deserves its place as a classic of the genre, paving the way for the bolder experiments in storytelling and form of the 1970s.
Mukai Kan was born in Dairen, Manchukuo (now Dalian, China) in 1937. In 1964 he made his directorial debut with the educational film Two Boys. In 1965 he directed his first pink film, Flesh. Over the next four decades Mukai would direct nearly 150 films and produce nearly 500. Shishi Production, which he founded in 1979, gave several well-known directors their start, including Takita Yojiro, Zeze Takahisa and Sato Hisayasu. In the 1990s Mukai moved into the booming straight-to-video market as well as making, in the latter part of his career, straight features, such as the ‘granny road movie’ Going West (1997). Mukai died in 2008.
1965 – Flesh
1966 – Bait
1966 – Chronicle of an Affair 2
1969 – Blue Film Woman
1971 – Flesh Futon
1997 – Going West
1999 – Hometown
2001 – Last Dance
2004 – School Reunion