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Quick Takes #6

August 2, 2013

Extend Hands from Darkness (Kurayami kara te wo nobase, 2013)

Yukihiro Toda’s Yubari Fanta 2013 winner tackles the obscure world of Japanese sex business. The country’s bizarre forms of sex trade are largely due to the legislation which prohibits prostitution, yet defines prostitution simply as vaginal intercourse. As a result, Japan is packed with legal non-prostitution that offers everything imaginable without intercourse.

Extend Hands from Darkness follows a delivery health (basically home delivery prostitution) girl serving disabled customers. The interesting topic is shot in semi-documentary fashion. Characters feel real, as do some street scenes, and at least one of the actors is genuinely disabled.

At 66 minutes the film at the length of a pink flick, but lacks any real nudity for lead girl Maya Koizumi being a gravure idol. She acts alright, but hiding strategic bits feels a bit pretentious in a film dealing with sex.

Director Toda lacks distinct style, but also avoids preaching and cliché for the most part. Tech credits are modest, giving the film a bit cheap look.

Birthright (Saitai, 2011)

An impressive slow burner of a revenge movie. Naoki Hashimoto feminist revenge tale is like an early Kiyoshi Kurosawa film with melancholic gray visuals and nothing but female characters. Long, 10 to 15 minute sequences with no dialogue, and music used sparingly.

It’s an endurance test to many, but rewards are fittingly high. Hashimoto pulls impressive performances from his leads, kidnapper Sayoko Oho, and victim Miyu Yagyu, who is kept captive without knowing the reason. Both women went through days of filming hardly without any food or drink to relate to their characters.

After an exceptionally challenging build up, the film’s ending hits like a million volts. This kind of brave filmmaking is a rare threat, although it will limit the audience to minimum.

Director Hashimoto is better known as producer for Jun Ichikawa and Shunji Iwai. This is where many of his influences are, though Hashimoto dares to take minimalism much further than Iwai and Ichikawa ever did. He also does a rare move by using only female characters in important roles: men are only seen in minor supporting roles, and none of them have dialogue.

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