|Index||7 reviews in total|
Overall I'd say OKOGE is pretty melodramatic, and has a few flaws but I still like. I liked the dark, grainy look of the movie, which matches the moody and conflicted characters perfectly. I can't say that I loved the characters - but they are very well-defined, and I did like the central character (Goh), who attempts to negotiate the varied rites of passage a gay Westerner would have to, only to encounter some serious, perhaps Japan-specific dilemmas that might seem anachronistic in the West. As a character he's not very dynamic, but his angst seems extremely real, and this is OKOGE's strong point. The main value of OKOGE almost seems to be as a document of the differences between gay cultures in various developed nations (and of how globalized ideals of what the norms in a given culture should be are often radically at odds with the everyday realities in the local segment of that same culture) - as cinema its' value is debatable, but viewed from a more sociological angle it's a fascinating and very provocative film.
This is an old Japanese film with a grainy picture quality. However,
the realism and accuracy of the portrayal of life for Japanese gays
remain accurate to this day in 2006.
It is a very moving and tragic story, and for those of us who had journeyed though similar social and spiritual battles, this movie is a tearjerker. It reminds me of the fact that social progress hasn't caught up with the developed Asian nations (Japan, Korean, Taiwan,Singapore and a few other regions).
As a gay man who grew up in the West, but the son of very traditional Asian parents, I see many family battles of my own reflected in this movie. It is truly a sad movie for Asian gay men to watch, and a real gem of social anthropological study for Westerners studying Asian gays and Asian attitudes towards homosexuality.
I recommend you buy this DVD. It is a great piece of work to own. I had it a decade ago on VHS tape, and I was thrilled to be able to own it on DVD now.
For those who watch it and think this movie's plot is too unreal... I would like to remind them that they are watching it from their Western perspective. I can assure them, that 70% of the movie is almost identical to my own experiences... and I did NOT write the screenplay!!! If you haven't watched it yet, what are you waiting for???
I have FINALLY seen this movie, having desperately wanted to do so
since I first heard of it 15 or 16 years ago. I like it very much, but
it's not what I expected from the name and topic of the movie, or from
the glamorous-looking still I saw of our heroine and two men in a bar.
I pictured a story of a woman chasing men in bars, living an empty social life with men who could never love her. Instead, it's all very small-scale and real and domestic, like other Japanese films. Think of that 1960s film where the elderly parents have to be dealt with. It's all small, delicate dramas between family members, in domestic settings.
Yes, there is very sexy and romantic footage at the beginning of our hero and his male lover. But as the film goes on, struggles are introduced and the world conspires against them.
Our heroine, as you have probably heard or would imagine, is still, yes, a confused and deluded woman, scarred by her early experiences and afraid of men. The film actually does explain the meaning of 'okoge,' but I think the implication of saying a woman is a 'fag hag' or like 'burnt rice' is a lot more severe than the film suggests. I think the name doesn't just come about because gay men are called 'okama' or 'rice pot.' I mean, have you ever seen burnt rice in a rice cooker? It's useless! Troublesome! Gross!
But our heroine is very beautiful, and charming, if misled. And we also wish the best for our hero and his boyfriend.
The last 30 minutes of the film had so many soap-operatic elements, and one very, very unbelievable scene of violence, so I have to downgrade the movie to merely an '8' while I would otherwise give it a '10.' I like the fact that film doesn't use stereotypes like pretty much every other American or English film that deals with homosexuality. Yes, there are drag queens here and they're somewhat outrageous, but pretty much everything else here aims not for comedy but truthful and simple acting.
A QUESTION: WHO IS THE WESTERN ACTOR shown in the bar scene at the end of the movie?? He's just an extra, but he looks SO FAMILIAR. Is he Australian? Is he famous? Do I just think I recognize him just because he's so handsome it's playing tricks on my mind??
MY VHS TAPE: I watched this on an ancient used VHS tape I just bought. The trailers for the distributor Cinevista after the movie are OUTRAGEOUS!! Campy, campy cornball stuff I've never even heard of. 'Black Lizard'? 'I Am My Own Woman'? 'Zero Patience,' a low-budget, glitzy AIDS-awareness musical? It's a pretty funny world where the low-budget, outrageous Alexis Arquette offering, 'Jack Be Nimble,' is, like, comparatively 'straight.' (He was kind of good-looking once. Sad.) Also, Cinevista apparently introduced the (American) world to Antonio Banderas in three early movies. Some super-gay stuff, apparently. And he was so exquisitely lovely in his 20s!
Nakajima's take on Japanese attitudes to gays is intriguing to come to
15 years after its initial release. Inevitably, you find yourself
asking how much has changed in that intervening decade-and-a-half. The
answer is, apart from the hairstyles and fashions, not very much. Gays
are still only visible in the public eye in their most effeminate form,
and their role in society still seems strictly to be entertaining the
straight masses with their raging queen antics. Red-blooded everyday
Joe gays like Goh are still in the closet.
It is a paradoxical situation, because most Japanese when pressed express opinions that are tolerant of homosexuality, and out-and-out anti-gay sentiments are rarely, if ever, heard. So why are all the gays hiding?
Of course, the film is more about its characters than social attitudes. Fortunately, Nakajima's nuanced characters and humorous touch ensure that the narrative of lost love and damaged souls redeemed stays on course. The spotlight on social attitudes is never too glaring. Regrettably, the film descends into farce at times, as when the drag queens fight the mobsters, and every time Goh's mother makes her vaudeville-style appearance. But Okoge is enlightening, challenging, moving and still asks uncomfortable questions of Japanese society after all these years. Well worth a look.
In 1992 I saw Okoge when it was originally released in movie theaters in Japan. Intended to be a limited time release only in art-house cinemas, Okoge invaded Japan like a typhoon by breaking box office records during sold out showings. Okoge's original six-week run eventually went on for months! It must have earned a fortune! Seeing Okoge from a western point of view taught me a lot about Japan's gay life at the time. Okoge was filmed throughout Tokyo's main gay section Shinjuku-Nichome. Okoge was daring, and breathtaking for its time. Okoge affords a wonderful glimpse not only into Japan's gay life, but also into its rich social culture. I'm happy to see it's available on DVD! I intend to purchase it.
The other reviews have done a pretty good job of describing the story
and the dramatic content.
If you are a gay male without any small children in the house, you will almost certainly find this movie thought provoking and interesting for all the reasons mentioned by the other reviewers.
For the more general movie viewer, three caveats:
1) Contains graphic, male, homosexual sex scenes - several of them, that go on for many minutes, and while not showing genitalia, leave absolutely nothing else to the imagination. Also contains a few scenes of slightly disturbing heterosexual sex, also pretty graphic.
2) This is not a comedy. Like many Japanese movies, the U.S. release packaging is quite misleading. This is a serious, melancholy drama with some comic relief in some of the scenes.
3) The DVD package shown is not a true DVD release, but rather a pretty obvious case in which someone took a well worn VHS tape and converted it. It is watchable, but quite grainy and washed out with poor audio quality and none of the features (switchable subtitles for example) that one associates with a true DVD release.
If you are OK with these three caveats, by all means order this DVD.
By the way, for those who do NOT happen to be gay, the leading lady Misa Shimizu is a treat (!)
I just discovered this gem of a movie. The heart of the script writer/director is in the right place and this film is relevant years after it was made. This film shows homophobic men and women, self-hating gay men, but its core characters, Goh and Sayoko, have an internal compass that is true and does not give in to social pressures. A gay man who accepts his gayness, and a woman who loves her gay friend. The film is also fast-paced, melodramatic, comedic -- eminently watchable. Don't see this film to learn about Japan. See it to learn about flawed human beings trying to live with dignity in a flawed world.
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