If one needs to describe Koji Wakamatsu as a director, one has to include his enduring faithfulness to his artistic vision and his thematic preoccupation with the field of conflict created by the encounter between subjectivity, sexuality and society. It is by the very fact of remaining out the hands of the big traditional movie companies that Wakamatsu enabled himself to realize both of the characteristics mentioned above.
In our first exploration of Wakamatsu’s oeuvre, we choose to review his Go, Go Second Time Virgin, a narrative shot in four days and on and in the building where the director was then residing (General note 1).
One day, the young Poppo (Mimi Kozakura) is gang raped on the roof of an apartment building in Tokyo (Narra-note 1). Even though (Michio Akiyama) is not a part of the group vagabonds, he is present on the roof observing her.
When Poppo wakes up the next day, the voyeur is still there. She greets him somewhat surprisingly with a cheery ‘ohayou’. As they start conversing with each other, Poppo quickly reveals her tragic history and her desire to die, not knowing that Tsukio, who recently tried to slash his wrists, has just been traumatized as well.
While Go, Go Second Time Virgin can be seen as a very unconventional love-narrative – a narrative about two people able to meet each other beyond the traumatic encounter with enjoyment, this moody narrative delves first and foremost into the traumatic intersection created by enjoyment and violence.
In order to sense the traumatic impact of enjoyment, an impact that is as destructive to subjectivity as it is to society, one has to read the narrative in a spatial way. The main fixation of Poppo and Tsukio on the roof evokes nothing other than the fixating effect of the trauma as ravage. By fixating our main characters on the roof, the narrative evokes and implies that the only escape from trauma is either by being killed or by suicide (Psycho-note 1, Narra-note 2). Furthermore, the subtle emphasis on suicide, on the passage-à-l’acte, turns the roof, besides it being an actual narrative place, into nothing other than a metaphor for the societal plane – a symbolic place that, with respect to dealing with youthful traumatized subjects, is but a failure. It is only by this metaphor that Go, Go second Time Virgin is able to become a societal critique – a critique on the very fact that society, in dealing with jouissance, falls short and fails to provide a symbolic answer that can help traumatized subjects find a less destructive way in life again.
The other spaces – the cellar where Poppo offers her body to Tsukio and the room where Tsukio’s trauma took place – should, in this respect, be read as that was remains hidden from the societal plane. Bu even with this subtle difference, each narrative space is characterized by a subjective claustrophobia. Unable to escape – and this is the narrative’s true theme – both desire to escape their trauma and to escape the plane impotent to halt the ravaging violent enjoyment.
Another dimension that needs to be highlighted is the subjective emptiness that marks our main characters. Poppo, for that matter, seems rather detached from any emotions. In our view, her enunciations (‘I want to die’, ‘kill me’, ‘8 of august, morning’) reveal her subjectivity as emptied by the ravaging enjoyment of men. And her insistence to be killed only serves to highlight her desire to join the emptiness – her unhappiness – that marks her subject.
Tsukio, by his violent act of murder, sought to halt the sexual jouissance that physically and sexually harassed his subject. As Tsukio calls his harassers pigs and beasts, it must be clear that he positions their sexual excess of enjoyment as beyond society. But by violently defending his subject, Tsukio ultimately places himself outside society as well. He is stuck on the roof not so much because of the traumatic event, but by using the sole ravaging act that is, in his mind, stops the harassing excess of enjoyment. While an enjoyment guides his violent defense, it should be clear that enjoyment as such forms Tsukio’s subjective problem (Narra-note 3).
What’s most noteworthy in the cinematographical mix of Go, Go Second Time Virgin is the beautiful shot compositions, its poetic framing. The beauty not only resides in the way of framing and its play with geometry, but also in its exceptional use of contrast and lighting. While these visual aspects form the fundaments for the visually pleasing cinematography, the way Wakamatsu subtly exploits the implying power of the shot further empowers the poetic dimensions of the framed image.
The narrative’s visuals are supported by beautiful atmospheric music, created by film-maker Masao Adachi. Adachi’s music, besides enhancing the poetics of the shot compositions and framed poetic monologues, poignantly communicates the very sadness of the fact that that man, as enamored by enjoyment, can have such ravaging traumatic effect.
Go, go Second Time Virgin may be a low-budget guerilla-shot cinematographic narrative, but it is also one of the most poetic narratives ever created about the ravage of enjoyment and the impossibility of society to deal with that traumatic excess. Despite dealing with really dark themes, no true film-fan should be allowed skip this beautiful mood piece. More so, because this gem was made by a director that has to be counted among Japan’s greatest.
General-note 1: The title of the narrative refers to a poem written by Yoshinori Nakamura. Note that the poem is also cited in the narrative as well. The song used in the narrative was written byYamatoya and recorded in Wakamatsu’ office.
Narra-note 1: We want to highlight that Poppo’s sudden shift in resistance is a psychologically sound defense mechanism against the forced intrusion of the real.
Narra-note 2: Note that both suicide and murder mingle jouissance and violence. While in the first case it concerns violence towards oneself, the second concerns violence from another person towards oneself.
Psycho-note 1: Of course, there are other and more positive ways to escape a trauma.
Narra-note 3: That is also the main reason why he cannot make love to Poppo or kill her. In a sense, this refusal, this refusal of enjoying her, is his confession of love.