The Roman Porno label is back for a series of five films to celebrate 45 years since the Nikkatsu film studio launched the originals. Over the last year or so this specific sub-genre of soft-core porn films has been resurrected and they have cropped up at various festivals such as International Film Festival Rotterdam and Nippon Connection. Audiences have been able to see these newer entries in the series celebrate their antecedents by following the same rules of creation laid out by their predecessors – a short shoot of about a week to create something lasting 80 minutes with sex scenes every ten minutes or so. Writers and directors were free to explore various themes and settings whether it be sexual politics to historical tales to self-reflexive comedies based on the film world.
This audacious approach to the creation of the original films, though occasionally controversial, led to some critically acclaimed classics. As a whole, the Roman Porno label is regarded with some affection and film academics pore over this sensuous soft-core body of work analysing them carefully. This surprisingly high regard for what are ostensibly skin flicks has led to the newer titles securing established and respected directors and actors including Hideo Nakata and Sion Sono. With the freedom to create whatever they want, the only question is whether any of the new Roman Porno reboot films stand up to the originals in terms of entertainment.
Wet Woman in the Wind is a sex comedy and because of this it is the easiest of the bunch to digest. It comes from Akihiko Shiota who is best known in the West for his 2007 live-action adaptation of the fantasy adventure manga Dororo. His self-penned script centres on Kosuke Kashiwagi (Tasuku Nagaoka), a thirty-something playwright who has fled Tokyo to live a quiet life in the countryside. He claims that it is all for work, because “if a person wants to think deeply, they’ve gotta be alone.” His alone time takes place in a shack in a forest populated by wild dogs and a tiger that has gotten loose from a nearby zoo.
However, Kosuke’s wish for a quiet life is soon interrupted when he is targeted by Shiori (Yuki Mamiya), a young woman who claims to be a love hunter. She cycles into his life (and straight into the river he was sitting by) from out of nowhere and latches onto him (quite literally in the opening scenes after she dries off) and demands to stay in his rickety abode. Somewhat bemused but mostly irritated, Kosuke attempts to dismiss her as a “stray dog” but his cruel indifference and arrogance sparks a somewhat vindictive but totally erotic campaign of sexual shenanigans on the part of Shiori to draw Kosuke to her as she demonstrates she is no simple stray. “You know I’ve locked on to you. Don’t think you can escape me. You can’t.”
It turns out to be true. What results is a lot of belly laughs from the bawdy humour as Shiota’s script and direction initially sets up Kosuke as an intellectual and over the remaining two thirds of the film we see Shiori use her sexual wiles to ensnare both men and women (including a theatre troupe from Toyko) in an effort to make jealous and conquer the pretentious playwright from Tokyo and expose his base qualities, ultimately reversing the roles that Kosuke seemingly casts women in and ensuring he ends the film like a dog in heat.
Getting to this point is fun. Yuki Mamiya plays Shiori as a force of nature. She is seemingly something of an ingenue whose playful looks and athletic beauty gives itself over to sexual voraciousness and some funny physical comedy as she and Kosuke try to control each other and others who get caught up in their battle for domination. She causes havoc in and out of bed with most of the sizzling sex scenes captured in mid-shots. As well as being sexy, the sheer gusto the performers put in and the unexpected turns the actions takes will draw the most laughs. If there is a thread running through the film it is seeing her bring Kosuke down from exalted member of the intellentsia to a poser, revealing him as a male hussy keeping a low-profile in his self-made shack (complete with a rubber dinghy that acts as a bed perfect for sex). She is one of three women to bare it all in front of the camera, and the more performers that get on screen, the more the tempo of the film builds up until Shiori literally brings the house down and Kosuke is left picking up the pieces, reduced in status and contemplating his defeat at the hands of a woman he regarded as a stray dog.
The general tone of the film is fluid fun thanks to the increasingly outrageous behaviour of characters, the twists and turns of a script full of wry laughs, and the committed acting from all involved. This is definitely a film both men and women can watch and enjoy together as they see the absurd levels of energy and passion coming from people who enjoy sex. Indeed, whether it is weaponising sex or just giving in to their passions, Shiota’s film gives everyone their due and allows them to have a good time so proceedings have a bounce and humour which warrants rewatches.
Wet Woman in the Wind is showing as part of the New York Asian Film Festival on Tuesday July 4 at the Walter Reade Theater at 8:00pm. Tickets can be purchased from the Film Society of Lincoln Center website.