THE PORNOGRAPHERS
1966

Netflix Criterion DVD
Japan
Japanese
120 Minutes
Comedy / Drama
Shohei Imamura

Mild-mannered-seeming Ogata falls in love with his landlady, moves in with she and her two children, never telling them that he doesn’t sell medical equipment, he produces and sells porn. It’s the 1960s in Japan. Ogata hires almost-retarded people to star in his films. They are beyond low budget, but the stressed out businessmen that he comes in contact with can’t get enough of his 8mm loops or his photos or his written work. He delves into prostitution a little bit as well.

This must have been shocking in 1966. It is completely tame by today’s standards. There is no nudity and no shocking language. But it does cover some pretty taboo ground. Ogata finds his thoughts towards his stepdaughter changing as she grows from little girl to teenage temptation. He is harassed by the mob, is shocked to learn that someone has brought a retarded girl to a movie set (“she’s old enough, at least”), his lover claims that her first husband has been reincarnated as the carp she keeps all too close, his step son climbs into bed with his mother, even though he’s college age.

Japan is a strange mixture of puritan and fetishistic. The subcultures there vary much more than they do in the United States, but there is no legal porn there that comes close to the explicitness that you’d find in America. Women are expected not to look young, as in America, but to actually act young. Pigtails, Hello Kitty, schoolgirl sailor suits.

Ogata doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, in fact he believes he’s keeping the men of Japan sane. Eating and sex are the only two things men need, he says.

Modern audiences will find it just weird enough to be interesting. With mental illness just around the corner for just about every character. Everyone is messed up a bit in the head, this film seems to say, what’s the harm in a little porn to brighten one’s day.

7.7 IMDB

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Written by Michael W. Cummins