Directed by Takahisa
Zeze, 1998, 79 mins. starring Akira Yoshino, Taro Suwa, Shoko
Kudo, Kazuhiro Sano and Yota Kawase.
Directed in 1998 by one of pinku's best-loved and best-known
sons, Takahisa Zeze, Dirty Maria is a title in far more
of a similar vein to his stunning arthouse-pink-murder movie Raigyo than his wacky, whacked-out tripmonster of a bizarro porn, Tokyo
X Erotica. This movie is, if anything, moodier than even Raigyo was: conducted in almost complete silence, with a lack of incidental
music which is clearly attributable to atmospherics rather than
lack of budget, painted in muted colours and featuring mostly night
scenes or desolate snow-covered mountains, right from the start
it displays a very stark, grim and depressing ambience which infects
the whole movie with a sombreness and solemnity not generally found
in Western softcore flicks.
Just like Raigyo, Dirty Maria is based on a real life true crime
story, which lends the movie a real air of credence. Also just like
Raigyo, the characters' motives are never fully explained - just
as with real life, you end up having to read between the lines a
lot of the time, which also gives the viewer the impression of authenticity.
Another striking similarity is in Zeze's composition and framing
of shots. Oftentimes the anti-heroine, Maria, is shown as being 'caught'
within a small square frame, whether a window or an open doorway,
suggesting that she is restrained, restricted by the tedium and oppression
of her stifling life of domesticity, male domination and unfulfilling
work. And yet another symbol from Raigyo, whereby a murderess changed
into black underwear in order to adopt a kind of alter ego identity,
transforming from everyday frump into dangerous femme fatale and
giving the movie the alternative title The Woman
In Black Underwear,
reappears here for the exact same reason. These were clever devices
used to wonderful effect in Raigyo, and lead me to believe that you
could probably watch Dirty Maria as a definite companion piece to
that particular movie - maybe even as an alternate take on the same
motifs and themes.
As far as the acting goes, all credit to the cast for carrying
off wonderfully quiet, subtle and underplayed performances throughout.
Taro Suwa's baffled, pathetic cab driver Murakami, living in the
desperate, bleak limbo of not knowing what has happened to his
missing wife, tortured by a combination of jealousy, hate and worry,
is particularly poignant: no less so is that of Maria herself,
played very credibly by Akira Yoshino, who lends the character
both a credibility of character in portraying her as infinitely
devious, self-serving and selfish, but also imbued with a very
real humanity, by rendering her strangely sympathetic, with a silent
and forlorn air not normally evidenced by mad murderesses in movies.
"It was surprisingly easy to kill her... because we die
Taro Suwa, everyone's favourite Japanese film pro-trooper of close
to a trillion titles in just about any and all genres you can care
to think of and a previous star of another Takahisa Zeze movie, Hysteric,
plays Murakami, a cab driver whose wife Mayumi has gone missing.
He fears that she may have run off with another man (and this is
partly the case, as she was knocking off both her boss and also
another colleague, Sawai, on the side) - or gotten into trouble
by involving herself with a 'telephone dating club' (echoes of Raigyo here
again), a service which hooks up strangers looking for easy, anonymous
sex, no questions asked.
However, neither of these are the case: in fact (and this is not
spoilertastic, since this event takes place within the first eight
minutes of the movie), she has been murdered by a morose woman
(not named throughout the duration of the movie), who has a day
job at the beauty salon which his wife worked at, and who is also
married, with a small son.
After offing Mayumi in her living-room, she dispassionately chops
the body up in the bathroom and later, after taking her son to
school, she deposits the remains into several disparate trashbins
around town. However, on nearly getting caught dropping off the
last two bags into a bin, she decides instead to put them into
a coin locker at the station.
But what, exactly, was this woman's motive to kill Mayumi? It
seems that she was, simply, jealous of everything Mayumi had.
Mayumi was leaving to start her own beauty salon; she had probably
also been having an affair with Sawai, with whom the murderess
had also been having an affair. So when Murakami turns up at the
salon, under the false impression that Mayumi has run off with
the boss, it is the murderess who intervenes to help him. After
finding out that some of the bags containing Mayumi's corpse have
been found, she spins Murakami a yarn about how Mayumi had said
she might be going to a snowy spa retreat up in the mountains.
So together they go to the spa resort, ostensibly to look for
the missing wife. However, they end up having a relationship, mostly
born of necessity: Murakami partly out of spite against his runaway,
cheating wife, and the murderess partly to try and protect herself
now that the details of her crime are about to go public, by implying
that Mayumi went to the spa with Sawai, which would of course put
him in the frame for Mayumi's murder when it comes to light. But
there is more to it than that: they become bound together by the
fact of their meaningless lives which both pivot around the disappearance
of Mayumi and which will inevitably both be destroyed by her death.
Takahisa Zeze is a master of both atmosphere and character development
in his pinku eiga, which kind of begs the question: why can't he
carry it off within the framework of his more mainstream titles?
Neither the tedious Kokkuri nor the appalling Moon
Child came anywhere
close to replicating the beauty and sadness of his softcore/art
movies, which is a terrible shame, as he is clearly a director
gifted with both true talent and vision. Although Dirty
perhaps more of a bitterly bleak, piteous human drama than the
thematically rich Raigyo, it's still a beautiful, difficult and
disturbing piece and has a great deal of depth, with much to say
about sex, jealousy, empathy, mortality and the fragility of life.
Definitely a very worthy piece that anyone with a taste for the
darker end of the arthouse spectrum should see.
Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Sex: 6/10. Oh, and Taro Suwa having one off the wrist, which is just plain disturbing
Gore: 3/10 - not as much as you might imagine
Pervy Old Men: far too many *shudder*
Dismembered Housewives: a great deal more interesting than Desperate Housewives,
I reckon ;-)
Films in a Similar Style: Raigyo, Lunch
Despite All That, Angel
Guts: Red Vertigo, The Isle
*** Recommended! ***
Thanks to Salvation
who supplied a screener for this movie
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
http://www.salvation-films.co.uk/ - Dirty
Maria is merely one
of a number of great pinku eiga titles available from Salvation
Films as part of their Sacrament series - almost all of them are
well worth checking out
http://www.midnighteye.com/reviews/little-wing.shtml - a couple
of paragraphs dedicated to Kishu Izuchi, the scriptwriter for both
Raigyo and Dirty Maria
http://eigagogo.free.fr/Critiques/dirty_maria.html - review in