Gate of Flesh Reviews
Ultimately, what leaves the deepest impression is Suzuki's dazzling use of fluorescent lighting to punctuate the films major scenes. And although the film's strengths lie largely in it's visuals, the dialogue still brings plenty of substance to the table as evidenced in the protagonist's poignant closing lines - "Are we eating to sell our bodies or are we selling our bodies to eat? - and either way, what are we living for?"
Gate of Flesh is a film about carnal desires and the inter-changeability of pleasure and pain, the films title itself is used multiple times in the script to represent passing through the realm of sex for money and achieving something you're willing to die for, love. This is not to say however that the film is empowering towards the idea of love, if anything the harpy like group of protagonists see it as a sign weakness, punishing those who give in. It is in this sense that 'Gate of Flesh' makes its most interesting comments about the way in which men use women and the price of living "are we eating to sell our bodies or are we selling our bodies to eat? - and either way, what are we living for?"
In a cinematography sense the film is very surrealistic, superimposed faces appear and disappear and at one point the face of a red demon (a representation of Maya's longing for pain) is seen sprouting from the top of Ibuki's head. One of the most notable instances of said surrealism however is when the film briefly cuts away from the back alleys of Tokyo and each of the four prostitutes appear against a background that matches their colour coded dresses, saying a sentence about the way they're feeling, it's as equally bizarre as it is beautiful.
The film is clearly anti-American and Suzuki has no hesitation when he comes to showing the negative effects of the occupation of Japan and the subsequent democracy. In many ways Gate of Flesh is about transformation, much like the traditional Geisha-style O-Machi is strung up and destroyed, so to is the old vision of Japan by America.
Verdict: Extremely shocking for it's time and equally as challenging, Gate of Flesh is a must see for those interested in Japanese cinema.
i really like the use of color in the film but i found the film a bit claustrophobic due to the lack of any real change in the setting and seeing the same narrow alleys over and over again. and while the film looks at the darker history of life in post war tokyo, and casts aspersions toward america regarding it, there is no real reflection on what responsibility japan and the characters themselves bore for their situation.
all of his films were done on a minuscule budget, and he would always, somehow, take a run of the mill script and transform it into a piece that is socially and politically critical and engaging.
Really. He is quite marvellous in spinning these visually phantasmagorias filled with neon colors and cinemascope compositions so eclectic your head with stretch to cosmic proportions.
But in any case, what we have here was supposed to be a standard porn film made in the time of major post-war Japan, totally exploitave and such.
Suzuki was a sort of un-intentional maverick. His artist instincts come through all the time. Despite low budgets and set-backs, his films invariably end up as trippy film-fests that defy conventions, even now.
This film is no exception.
The movie is set in bombed out post-WWII Japan, occupied and filled to the brim with low-lifes and scum of the earth.
A young girl, lost in the crowd, is nearly gang raped and assaulted, as a line of whores flaunt their goods to the American GIs occupying the landscape.
This same girl falls into a small enclave of tough prostitutes who have an oddly regimented set of rules which can never be broken, the most important being that you never fall in love with the merchandise. This is graphically displayed as one of them is tied up and mercilessly beaten as her hair is cut. This her punishment. While the exploitave S&M implications are entirely clear, Suzuki manages to suck any titliation out of the sequences. They are certainly harrowing.
In any case, the girl fits in nicely. All are color coded. The hot-blooded one is red. The sadistic one is yellow. The somewhat modest one is purple. The aforementioned banished one is in white. And the new girl is in green.
At first, things go 'nicely', if it could be said that way.
Then a rogue Japanese soldier stumbles into their midst. At first, they resent him, but not long, his strange magnetism attracts all four girls, especially the green one, who is struck by his resemblence to her older brother.
Eventually, things go to hell as the new girl invariably falls in love. What happens next is especially disgusting. Not in the distasteful fashion but in the traumatic oh-jesus-this-is-horrible-make-it-stop.
Suzuki is manipulative, but it's a good kind of manipulation.
All the 'pink' implications of the film are shedded the moment the credits come on screen. We see rough sketches of wailing mothers and piles of bodies.
The sequences in the run-down streets of Japan are incredibly considering what a low budget they had to work with. Suzuki fashions a surreal environment with billboards, parts of buildings and other scrap parts all smashed together.
At times, it resembles a sci-fi landscape, with bombed out towers and cityscapes. The oddest sets are the ones that are deliberately theatrical as a form of emphasis.
In one shocking scene, the narrative is interrupted by the girl's thoughts of the man. Each one is sitting in their own personal set.
The red one sits in a landscape colored entirely RED.
The yellow one in YELLOW and so on...
The green one sits besides a green tree with gree leaves in front of a green backdrop. This theatricality of Suzuki is what makes him notable.
He continues the onslaught of bizarre imagery, such as one sequence where a black priest threatens his own honor by attempting to rape a girl. in the distance, is a burnt church, though at the steeple a single light shines. Why? Who cares, it looks cool.
Other techinques include spotlights coming on at impossible times, actors floating in space as they kiss and float in a constant circle, and double exposured allowing us to see the timed reactions of characters. The faces fill both sides of the frame. It's dazzling.
The film makes a rather bitter statement about what it thinks of America and in that sense, it is an outright reaction from Suzuki about the post-war environment. This is not something to be taken lightly. Suzuki is being subversive and yet very slick. It's almost too slick and disgusting, but he's doing it because he can.
He's like a Japanese Sam Fuller, except even crazier.
What's ironic is that Suzuki would abandon all subversive methods as he would eventually gain more creative freedom as he got older. His later films become even more hallucinatory until, recently, with his PISTOL OPERA, he has entered the realm of ART FILM, full fledged and without shame.
But in some ways, I prefer Suzuki's rather sly subversions of genre films under the strict studio that eventually fired him. The restrictions make for some interesting results, and really, this film is only a product of that environment.
[font=Century Gothic]"Gate of Flesh" is a raucous, wild, risque and downright kinky view of a society that is one step away from collapsing totally. Any authority is corrupt including the American MP's which means the gangsters are really in charge with all the power that matters. Considering how men have so badly screwed up the world, then it should come as no surprise that Sen's gang is going to want to have nothing to do with men except as a source of income.[/font]
Maya (Yumiko Nogawa) was raped by American soldiers in the wake of World War II. Desperate and alone, she goes to Tokyo, where no one will know her. She falls in with a band of young prostitutes, who take her in and make her one of them. She knows the rules--no pimps, no outsiders, and no giving it away. If any of the group has sex without taking payment, the others fall on her. They beat her, humiliate her, cut off her hair, and cast her out. Maya sees this happen; she knows it will happen to her if she fails them. And then, Shin (Jo Shishido) walks into their lives. He has killed an American serviceman, holds a consignment of stolen penicillin, and ends up seeking the protection of the girls.
What is most striking about the film, I think, is its use of colour. The streets are desolate. Drab. Everything is in shades of brown and grey. Walking through this are the prostitutes, each in her own glowing colour. The sole exception is Machiko (Misako Tominaga), who wears black--and does not dress in the flashy Western way of the others. She still wishes for a traditional life, despite the desperation that makes her sell her body alongside the others. One suspects that she services a different sort of clientele, the kind who longs for the old days before the war, not the younger, more grasping kind that goes for the others. And, of course, Machiko falls in love.
The girls are all seeking something, I think. Most seek independence, freedom, a way out from under the thumb of men. Hence the "no pimps" policy--and, I think, the "don't give it away" policy as well. However, Maya seeks to forget and Machiko seeks to find anew. Machiko, we learn, was married once. Presumably her husband, like so many other Japanese men of the time, was killed in the war. Maya seeks to start anew with Shin, with a life that is completely separated from her old one. She wants to forget her rape. I think it also has its roots in the "no Americans" policy--the women are all under the thumb of America; the whole country is. And this in a world where a woman and a pound of beef will cost the same.
Japanese post-war cinema is a curious thing. It is a struggle between the Westernizing influences and the desire to hold on to the past. The whole of the culture seems to be as torn as Maya. The women cling desperately to their nonchalance, their false gaiety. They flaunt their bright colours--red, green, purple, yellow--and cling to their own rules so that the rules of others will not touch them. This is the same culture of cinema that was bringing up Kurosawa to his greatest work. This film is much more obscure--[i]I'd[/i] never heard of it--but it is a good example of its type.