Friday, August 13, 2010

The Music

Meet Reiko (Noriko Kurosawa). She's young and sexy but a bit of a head case. Seems she can't hear music. Go ahead, put a radio up to her head -- she just can't hear it. Also, she can't experience sexual pleasure. Unless, of course, she's with a man who's impotent or on his death bed. Perhaps it all has something to do with being hot for her brother (whom she witnessed getting it on with their aunt)? She also has a scissor fixation. Hmm. And she dreams of a bull coming out of the sky with horns shaped like huge penises. Her psychiatrist is having a field day. But can he really get to the bottom of her problems?

Watching The Music (Ongaku, 1972), one of Yasuzo Masumura's better yet lesser-known flicks, made me realize how long it's been since I've seen an truly, wonderfully bizarre film. Masumura delivers the fucked-up, Freudian goods in this exploration of incest, necrophilia, rape, suicide, sexual dysfunction, and, of course, mental illness. Noriko Kurosawa is amazing, a one-woman encyclopedia of psychosexual neurosis, channeling a dozen conflicting impulses at once (in a near-perpetual state of undress). Quite frankly, she burns up the screen, making for far more compelling viewing than would have been the case with a less gifted and demonstrative actress.

However, the lovely Ms. Kurosawa (no relation) can't take all the credit for the murky, manipulative mind job that is The Music. The film is based on a novel by Yukio Mishima, himself a notable nut job (you'll recall he famously attempted to take over an army base in 1970 and, failing, subsequently committed a painfully protracted seppuku). Masumura directed Mishima in the not-great vanity picture Afraid to Die (1960); it wasn't Masumura's fault -- Mishima just wasn't much of an actor. The noted novelist was much better as a "human doll" in Kinji Fukasaku's Black Lizard (1968) and in the tiny role of a samurai who commits a spontaneous seppuku (!) in Hideo Gosha's Tenchu! (1969).

As for your being able to see The Music, well I won't lie to you, it ain't gonna be easy. It's not available commercially. I got a copy through back channels, so you're gonna have to know a collector to get a gander at this delightfully demented picture. But hey, things can change. Many's the time I've secured a hither-to hard-to-find film only to see it released commercially in the US a couple of years later. Who knows, maybe Fantoma will put it out? They've been doing great work carrying the Masumura torch, with half a dozen titles out to date. Perhaps we should all send them an email? If they get enough requests, they just might do it. That would be great, because this is a forgotten gem that really deserves to be seen.

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