Subu makes pornographic films. He sees nothing wrong with it. They are an aid to a repressed society, and he uses the money to support his landlady, Haru, and her family. From time to time, Haru shares her bed with Subu, though she believes her dead husband, reincarnated as a carp, disapproves. Director Shohei Imamura has always delighted in the kinky exploits of lowlifes, and in this 1966 classic, he finds subversive humor in the bizarre dynamics of Haru, her Oedipal son, and her daughter, the true object of her pornographer-boyfriend’s obsession. Imamura’s comic treatment of such taboos as voyeurism and incest sparked controversy when the film was released, but The Pornographers has outlasted its critics, and now seems frankly ahead of its time. —The Criterion Collection
Shohei Imamura’s ribald, darkly comic films about messy human relationships and coarse, indomitable women repelled early European critics who had grown to cherish the graceful, exotic image of Japan typified by Kenji Mizoguchi films. Yet Imamura remains a critically important director, both as one of the seminal Japanese New Wave directors (along with Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda) and as a chronicler of a side of Japan rarely seen in Mizoguchi movies or tourist brochures.
Born in 1926, in Tokyo, Imamura attended the elite elementary and middle schools that normally would have aimed him toward a prestigious university degree and a comfortable career in business or government. His love of theater and loathing of bourgeois presumptions, however, steered him away from a conventional lifestyle. When he failed the entrance exam for the agriculture program at the national university in Hokkaido, he enrolled in a technical school to evade the draft. The day the Pacific War ended… read more
A murky film about murky moral ambiguities. The plot is disjointed and the pacing sometimes trying, which can make it difficult to follow at times. But it achieves a strange, almost surreal energy that builds a consistently compelling atmosphere while it explores its complex, enigmatic characters. Not without its flaws, but an intriguing classic.