Friday, June 30, 2017

NYAFF ’17: Wet Woman in the Wind

There were hard and fast rules for the making of Nikkatsu’s so-called Roman P*rn* series of films, sort of like a sonnet or a haiku. They had to be under eighty minutes, with a sex scene due every ten minutes. Having saved the studio from financial ruin in the 1970s, they have recently dusted the tried-and-true formula for old times’ sake as well as potentially lucrative territorial sales and back-end deals, so to speak. This time around, they have recruited some surprisingly well-known filmmakers, including Akihiro Shiota (Dororo), whose Wet Woman in the Wind (NSFW trailer here) screens during this year’s New York Asian Film Festival.

Shiori is trouble with a capital “T.” Where she goes, her elevated pheromones cause irrational sexual behavior, but Kosuke is determined not to play her game. The former womanizing playwright has sequestered himself in a remote cabin to detox and maybe find himself. Shiori is not part of his plans. Of course, she takes his resistance as a challenge. As fate (and Nikkatsu) would have it, his former theater troupe will come blundering along, bringing plenty of unwitting accomplices (of both genders) to help stir Kosuke’s jealousy.  Of course, he is not about to take all that lying down.

So yes, Wet Woman in the Wind is screening at the Lincoln Center, home of the Metropolitan Opera, The New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic. Seems fitting, right? You could say there’s a lot of choreography in the film. There are certainly plenty of bodies in motion and physical comedy aplenty.

Frankly, Wet probably could have passed for brilliant cultural criticism in the early 1970s. It feels like it stepped out of 1969, with its lead character, a sort of nymphomaniacal Amélie breaking down square sexual inhibitions and Kosuke going back to nature to get in touch with his true feelings or whatever. However, as a throwback, it is more honest about its horndog proclivities.

Regardless, Yuki Mamiya is just an indomitable, irresistible force as the seductive pixie. To her credit, she throws herself into all the chaos and what-not her character unleashes.  There is no doubting her energy or commitment. Wisely, Tasuku Nagaoka opts for a more restrained approach as Kosuke, but he is still getting naked just the same. Recommended for nostalgic fans of the original romans, Wet Woman in the Wind screens at the Walter Reade on the Fourth of July, because obviously. However, if that all sounds fun to you, you really have to check out the ribald but endlessly inventive Suffering of Ninko, which screens on Sunday, July 9th, as part of the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival.