CONFIDENTIAL: SEXUAL MARKET (Noburo Tanaka, 1974) ***
This was another Japanese film I had never heard of prior to its appearance during the Italian TV "After Hours" programme. Considering the clearly exploitative title (apparently this was just one of a series of such films!), I was expecting a sort of Asian semi-documentary of the "Mondo" variety but instead it turned out to be a reasonably compelling character drama with a good leading performance from Meika Seri as a young but strong-willed prostitute surviving in modern-day Japan.
While it's basically a series of often perverse sexual encounters between Seri and a variety of clients (and it's certainly the most explicit out of all the Asian flicks I've watched recently), the film also follows her relationship with her dysfunctional 'family': the mother is an ageing prostitute whose clients are beginning to shun her for her daughter, especially after she has been newly impregnated; her retarded brother is allowed to spy on the love-making and the girl (without any real thought of abuse or even incest) occasionally indulges him as well because, as she tells him: "After all, you're a man too!"; her pimp is a selfish bully but she manages to stand up to him, after which he is forced to take on a couple of needy and inexperienced lovers instead (an episode which has a literally explosive conclusion).
However, the most surprising factor about the film is how well it's actually made with the inventive camera-work being of special interest; near the end (the scene of the retarded boy going mad and committing suicide, and which features footage involving a chicken that wouldn't go down well with Animal Rights activists!) it switches briefly to color, albeit with a heavy bluish tone. The eclectic music score alternating between synthesizer/heavy-rock passages and traditional Japanese songs is another major asset.
Interestingly, while the lead actress later appeared (in a supporting role) in Nagisa Oshima's notorious sex-fest AI NO CORRIDA aka IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976), director Noburo Tanaka had actually filmed that same story himself under the name A WOMAN CALLED SADA ABE (1975)!
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