FILM REVIEW | A Playwright's Frustrations In "Wet Woman in the Wind"
WARNING: While the following article is safe-for-work, the motion picture discussed is unsuitable for viewers under the age of 18.
In the 1970s Nikkatsu, one of Japan's oldest film studios, sought out a corner of the movie market known as the "roman porno". Until the end of the 80s, Nikkatsu reigned supreme with films that mixed creative storytelling with the most sauciest of sexual freedom. Those days of filmmaking have since gone by the wayside -- no thanks to the internet's unlimited supply of the second word of that genre's title -- with only a handful of these sorts of films being released here and there. (For English examples of films that would be in the same vein as the roman porno genre, one can look at both Michael Winterbottom's 2004 film 9 Songs and John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 cult classic Shortbus.)
Because of reasons, Nikkatsu has sought to revamp its roman porno "glory days" with new productions by some of Japan's most acclaimed filmmakers. The first out of the gate is Wet Woman in the Wind, directed by Akihiko Shiota (Canary, Dororo). While they had their creative freedoms, Nikkatsu passed down three laws of the film genre that every director must follow: it must be filmed in less than a week, run less than 80 minutes, and have at least one nude/sex scene every ten minutes. If we're going by the quality of roman porno just by these rules alone, then Shiota truly struck some sort of cinematic gold, if you can call it that without smirking like a fool.
Wet Woman in the Wind tells the tale of struggling playwright Kosuke (Tasuku Nagaoka), who has secluded himself from society by living in a DIY shack in the middle of the woods. His quiet life suddenly gets noisy when a young waitress named Shiori (Yuki Mamiya) literally crashes her bike into the nearby ocean. Following him home, Shiori asks if she can stay at his place for the night. What follows is a back-and-forth struggle between finding peace and sexual release, as the two fight for dominance both physically and mentally.
It's obvious from the get-go that this type of film was made for one sort of niche audience, and would in fact be one of the worst kind of movies to take someone to on a first date. (I can be proven wrong, though!) The questionable scenes are long, steamy, and will not have the viewer use their imagination to figure out what's going on by any means. Mind you, a couple of the scenes -- one especially involving Shiori and her boss -- do get rather uncomfortable, as they tend to lean almost towards assault. So yeah, it's best to prepare yourself for this sort of stuff before you decide whether or not to watch it.
However I was surprised by some of the more humorous elements of Wet Woman in the Wind. One of the film's highlights involves Kosuke trying to teach Shiori the means of acting, be it with emoting with just one word or using an act of force to convey one's feelings. It's a well-written and real scene, one that makes me think of how my friends in the college theater department used to practice their techniques. Seeing Kosuke treat a theater troupe with care before Shiori rips their style to shreds is also good for a few laughs, with her "stray dog" mentality taking to form in a literal, perverted sense.
Still, it's hard to fully endorse a movie like Wet Woman in the Wind, mainly for the more erotic scenes in general. With that being said, Shiota has indeed crafted a film worthy of the roman porno name. Even though there are moments of discomfort, one could attest that the actions displayed here are more of a callback to the 70s/80s films than something that would be socially acceptable in today's world. Creative? Perhaps. Visually enticing? Depends on the eyes of the beholder.
WARNING: trailer is not safe for work
My only suggestion to Nikkatsu is to keep pushing the limits of what one can get away with in the roman porno genre. Thanks to Japan holding the title of "dumbest law in the world", no film is able to show the entire body without the use of censors. (This law did lead to Shiota towards using some humorous means of obscuring the actors' lower areas, so maybe points for that.) One can only hope that Nikkatsu will find the means to work around this 110 year-old law, to the point where even the higher-ups will consider abolishing it once and for all.
Until that time, consider Shiota's Wet Woman in the Wind a very light recommendation for when you want a balance of some good humor and sexual deviancy. And in case my warning wasn't clear early on, let me restate it: don't bring a date to this film, unless they're into this sort of thing.