Those readers who read our review of Norifumi Suzuki’s Sex And Fury (1973) will know that we praised the myriad of visually satisfying moments and how Suzuki’s artful composition allowed Reiko Ike to truly mesmerize the spectator. Can Teruo Ishii, with his sequel, utilize Reiko Ike in the same visually satisfying way or will he forget to give Ike enough time to shine and mesmerize? Find out in our review of Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture.
One night, Ocho Inoshika (Reiko Ike) is abducted by a certain Yakuza clan and sexually violated. Suddenly, the three men who abducted her disappear. The following morning, she realizes she has been set-up as the crotch-gauge murderer that is terrorizing the streets.
Desiring to know why she was framed and to enact revenge, Ocho visits the boss of the woman who introduced her to one of the violators, the rickshaw man. As the boss lady is unwilling to cooperate, Ocho abducts Akemi (Akemi Kasuga). After threatening her, Ocho learns that Akemi, to keep getting drugs injections from Ocho’s violators, has been delivering women for their drugs-selling business.
Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture like so many Toei Pinky Violence narratives touches upon the lighthearted side of sexuality and male sexual desire as well as the crude violent side of sexuality and male sexual desire.
One can, but not without taking some liberties, to explain the structure of sexuality within the narrative as follows: men enjoy women who either subject themselves to man’s sexual desire for financial gain (i.e. prostitution) or are forcibly subjected by them to their sexual desire (i.e. rape). While the erotically charged drugs-smuggling is unrelated to male sexual desire as such, the very dynamic of this smuggling is nevertheless partially regulated by the broad dimension of sexuality. These three yakuza succeed in enriching themselves by getting women addicted to drugs and taking full reins of their ‘sexual’ enjoyment.
More important to explore is the divide between the woman as violated and the woman as violator that marks Female Yakuza Tale – a divide that, in fact, characterizes most of Toei’s pinky violence genre. Both kind of women, the woman as victim of men’s sexual or profit-related desire, as well as the phallic woman, are staged for the male spectator’s enjoyment as such (Narra-note 1). The cinematographical emphasis on soft-erotism, e.g. framing women being violated, showing Ocho’s bare-breasted sword swinging, …etc., corroborates the fact that even if feministic tendencies mark the narrative the film is not a feministic narrative as such.
There is, nevertheless, a sequence that, by echoing Joan Riviere’s notion of Womanliness as a masquerade, touches upon the fundamental deception that is often in play between the sexes. When Ocho, the most evident phallic woman in this narrative, has an erotic encounter with the boss of the Ogi clan – an encounter that allows the spectator to satisfy his scopic drive with Reiko Ike’s erotically moving body, she plays the castrated woman and fakes her sexual enjoyment in order to appease the phallic fantasy of clan’s boss. This sequence does not only illustrate how easy it is for women to dupe men that are preoccupied with their phallic status, but also that this phallic preoccupation, a preoccupation that, in many cases, lies at the origin of sexual violence, is a preoccupation with something that can only be a deceptive fantasy.
The most enjoyable element of the composition of Female Yakuza Tale is its stylish fluidity. This stylish fluidity, which is most sensible in the various action sequences (i.e. the erotic action scenes as well as the fighting sequences), is not only function of the effective use of certain cinematographical techniques, like zoom-ins, zoom-outs and slow-motion, for dramatic effect, but also due to the geometrically pleasing shot-compositions.
Another element that often supports the stylish fluidity of the action-sequences is the pleasing colour-design in general and the use of reds and blues in particular. In some cases, the colour-design punctuates the geometry of shot-composition and, in other cases, the colour-design gives, by adding some contrast to the shot, the dramatic moments a more stylish flair.
The final element that support the dramatic unfolding of the narrative is the musical accompaniment. Not only are certain musical elements used to help strengthen the dramatic flair of the composition, but dramatic music is also used to punctuate the dramatic nature of certain event or reveal as such (e.g. the reveal that Ocho was set-up). Besides strengthening the drama, musical accompaniment is, in many cases, also utilized to give certain sequences an enticing stylish atmosphere or infuse certain scenes with a pleasing amount of stylish tension.
Given the pleasing stylish flair that marks the composition, it is truly disappointing to realize that Female Yakuza Tale, in contrast to Sex And Fury (1973), has no iconic fighting sequences. The main reason why the finale, despite having plenty of pleasing visual moments and lots of nudity, fails to truly deliver is solely because it underutilizes Reiko Ike. Put differently, nowhere in the finale is the erotic dimension of Ocho Inoshika’s phallic position truly visually celebrated.
While Female Yakuza Tale: Inquisition and Torture offers a more refined stylish cinematographical composition than Suzuki’s Sex and Fury (1973), Teruo Ishii is unable to deliver what made the first film so enjoyable: the visual celebration of Ocho Inoshika’s phallic fury. Ishii’s finale is littered with small pleasing visual moments and is narratively speaking denser, but, as Ishii underutilizes the charismatic presence of Reiko Ike and the subtle eroticism she exudes while fighting, the spectator will ultimately be left somewhat unsatisfied (General-note 1). Yet, this stumble in the finale does not stop Ishii’s sequel from being a great Pinky Violence narrative in its own right.
Narra-note 1: We should note that Ocho, while a female violator, is also a violated woman. The character of Ocho is thus served to the male’s gazing enjoyment in both positions.
General-note 1: We can also describe the film as follows: While the opening of the narrative succeeds to whet our appetites, the finale forgets to satisfy our hunger.