Extreme Private Ethos, the Asia Society’s recent retrospective film series of uncomfortably personal Japanese documentaries, this Saturday.
Hara and Takeda had a young son together and viewers will feel for him quite acutely throughout the film. Wanting to maintain their connection, Hara and his camera invade her new life without him, but she allows it, apparently as a means of inflicting passive aggressive humiliations. Indeed, Hara willingly watches as she launches into an unstable lesbian relationship, moves to Okinawa to become a bargirl, becomes the submissive lover of an African American GI, and has someone’s baby (we not told whose). Hara’s spares the audience nothing, including a front-and-center, but slightly out of focus shot of her delivery.
Eventually moving into an urban commune for former bargirls and their children, Takeda tries to give her choices the patina of radical activism, but what happens on screen is really just a mess. When she forthrightly proclaims her preference for her biracial baby girl over her good natured toddler son, knowingly on-camera, it is rather quietly shocking. You have to feel for the young guy. To get back at his mother, he is probably now a conservative member of the LDP and a staid family man.
Frankly, the alternative lifestyles depicted in Eros make it pretty clear why the traditional ones have endured so long. The distinctly unprofessional midwifery practiced at the commune is particularly disturbing, but none of the choices made in the film appear to turn out well.