I was introduced to the films of Hisayasu Satō only a few short years ago, but he is fast becoming one of my favourite directors. Working mostly in the pinku genre, Satō is often touted as a sort of pornographic, Japanese Cronenberg. As I’ve noted before on Mondo Exploito, in some ways it’s an apt comparison, but the more I see of his work the less appropriate it seems. Satō’s films are uniquely Japanese, and he has his own set of themes that he repetitively obsesses over — themes that are at the forefront of The Bedroom, Satō’s most infamous work.
original title: Uwakizuma: Chijokuzeme
aka: Unfaithful Wife: Shameful Torture, An Aria on Gazes, Promiscuous Wife: Disgraceful Torture
Kyoko is in the employ of a sex club run by the mysterious Mr. Takano. The girls who work there, Kyoko included, are drugged with Halcion and sleep through their various sexual encounters with their perverse clientele. Kyoko stops taking the sleeping pills and begins to feign unconsciousness. She finds this really turns her on.
Kyoko becomes obsessed with being watched and being filmed. The offscreen Mr. Takano constantly monitors her activities. Kyoko begins to capture her relationship with her lover through a video camera. Point of view shots are occasionally presented in hazy videotape rather than film.
Satō’s presentation of voyeurism in The Bedroom is reminiscent of his most famous and gruesome work, Naked Blood: Megyaku, made four years later. I was also reminded of the excellent Rape Climax (1987) in its scenes of sensory deprived sex. However, The Bedroom trumps both Naked Blood and Rape Climax in its execution. The Bedroom is captured with a delirious dreamlike energy. Sets are bathed in lurid pinks and blues, wide angle lenses distort everything, shots flow together beautifully. Satō is certainly a pinku director like no other.
The Bedroom has received a heap of heated controversy for the inclusion of Issei Sagawa in its cast. Sagawa is an extraordinarily sick man who murdered Renée Hartevelt, a Dutch student, while living in Paris in the early 80s. He raped Hartevelt’s corpse and cannibalised her flesh. Through a bizarre and disturbing legal loophole, he has been allowed to live an entirely free life back in Japan. Reportedly, he has received little to no medical support for his clearly deranged mental health.
After the murder and his release, Sagawa became a celebrity in Japan, making money by appearing on talk shows and, rather disgustingly, writing food reviews for a magazine. Sagawa has an agent and sells memorabilia (including vials of his semen) on his website. He even appeared in a revolting adult video, which, from the snippets I’ve seen, seems about as misanthropic as you’d expect from Japanese pornography. VICE put together a soul-destroying piece about him. Check it out if you want to feel really shit about the world.
Sagawa’s inclusion is brief, but, horrifyingly, it allows him to indulge in what seems to be his favourite fantasy: biting buttocks. His appearance is very much exploitative, both of Hartevelt’s senseless death and Sagawa’s obviously untended madness, and I can certainly understand the disgust it created. The fact that he has been able to let his fantasies run rampant to this day is unbelievable. Still, after watching interviews with Sagawa, I can’t help but feel he slips comfortably into the gruesome universe Satō creates.
The Bedroom does not have a straightforward narrative. It will likely anger some viewers with its disconnected, disjointed approach. Some will find it erotic, others will find it nauseating — for me, it falls somewhere in-between. Regardless of its controversies, I don’t think there’s any denying the thought and skill that went into making it.
The Bedroom is, surprisingly, available on DVD in the UK. It has, unsurprisingly, very poor video and hard subs. Also, it’s cut. I’d suggest tracking down the Japanese VHS if you want an uncut physical copy. But then there’s the whole subtitle thing…