Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Shunpu Den
Alternate titles: Comfort Women, Joy Girls
Japan, 1965. Nikkatsu. Screenplay by Hajime Takaiwa, from a story by Taijiro Tamura. Cinematography by Kazue Nagatsuka. Produced by Kaneo Iwai. Music by Naozumi Yamamoto. Production Design by Takeo Kimura. Film Editing by Akira Suzuki.
Seijun Suzuki combines the worst tragedies of war with its most absurd realities. Harumi is a fallen woman who was rejected by the man she loved, so she travels to Manchuria to work at a brothel that the Japanese regiment has set up for its men. She and a group of girls spend days and nights servicing their charges with weary resignation, with our heroine selected as the personal favourite of an abusive adjutant. She hates the man for the way he treats her, lower than even the other prostitutes, so she decides to get him back by seducing the adjutant’s aide and turning him against his boss. The plan goes elsewhere when she realizes she is genuinely in love with the sweet young man with the haunted eyes, and ends up following him across dangerous battlefields. It should be the stuff of corny melodrama, but somehow the fancy editing techniques, eccentric camera moves and overly committed performances make the danger feel more real and get closer to the horrific nature of war than a lot of more sincere films ever do.
The Criterion Collection: #299