Pretty in pinkku, big in Japan

David Nicholson samples a season of sex movies, Japanese-style

For many Japanese film-makers, one question heads their agenda: should they show pubic hair? More than half the country's 250-odd annual commercial releases are "pinkku" - soft porn productions given a censor's certificate so long as they are artistically credible and conform to the rules of engagement: no genitals, simulated intercourse and no pubic hair. Lately, a couple of directors have been inching down the bikini line of respectability; a wisp here, a tuft there. They have also begun taking liberties with the simulation dictat. "Sometimes they're really doing it, but they have to pretend they're pretending," says Ken Okubo, a Tokyo film critic.

This week the sexually liberated Dutch are watching a selection of these cheap thrillers (typically shot on a $35,000 budget and in four days) at the Rotterdam Film Festival. They have reacted with a mixture of disappointment and surprise: the films are far less explicit than the hump videos that clog Amsterdam's back streets. But there is certainly a more thoughtful approach to camerawork, narrative and plot.

No Man's Land, for example, intertwines a Tokyo gangster story with visual comments on the Gulf War, pausing occasionally for some energetic but unconvincing sexual interludes.

Emile Fallaux, the director of the Rotterdam Festival, admits that, for him, the sex is "a bit disappointing" - especially since in his research into the genre he discovered brothels with exquisitely specific "menus". "You can request anal titillation bya female nipple," he notes with admiration for Japanese ingenuity.

His choice of films is described by the festival as "a special glimpse of the Japanese psyche'', which, if true, is a little disturbing. In one film, Muscle, a man cuts off his gay lover's right hand, and later finds it preserved in a jar in his apartment. This looks back to Nagisa Oshima's 1976 masterpiece Ai No Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses) in which the heroine amputates her lover's penis after strangling him to a sexually exotic death.

Ai No Corrida was in fact a surprise escapee from Japanese censorship. It features frequent explicit sex scenes, but the film stock was sent outside Japan for processing and cannot be watched by Japanese audiences without a sort of fog covering the offending pieces of anatomy.

Fallaux originally toured Japan looking simply for bright young film-makers, but discovered that the majority made pinkku pictures since no other funding was open to them. This, he decided, could become a festival section in itself. "Every year we look for something to subvert the idea of sacred good taste. In the international film world there is a lot of echoing each other's opinions, and it gets very narrow. We try to break it up."

He makes no great claims for the films' place in world cinema, however. "They are a little bit of fun. People who might otherwise be ashamed to see porno films can have the excuse of an arthouse festival. There is a lot of laughing in the audiences. Certainly more laughing than masturbation." So enthused has he become that Rotterdam now plans a "classic Japanese porn" selection in conjunction with the dean of Tokyo University's arts department next year.

Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tv review
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech

The best TV shows and films coming to the service

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn