HomeBlogThe Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022

The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2022

What Lies Beneath: The Intricate Representations of a ‘Dark Mind’ in Japanese Cinema

Shrieking in the Rain

雨に叫べば
2021/102min/Colour/English Subtitles
Distributor: Freestone Productions

Director: UCHIDA Eiji
Cast: MATSUMOTO Marika, OYAMA Maeko, MOTOLA Serena

The title of UCHIDA Eiji’s latest feature Shrieking in the Rain (Ame ni
sakebeba) seems deliberately to echo that of another film nostalgically
harking back to the golden years of a certain type of studio cinema that no
longer exists, the classic 1952 Gene Kelly musical Singin’ in the Rain –
released in Japan as Ame ni utaeba. Both lift the curtain on the power
dynamics involved in the production of films in which the physically
challenging motions of their performers provide the main attraction.

However, UCHIDA’s focus on the characters and events on the studio set in
the run up to an explicit lovemaking scene bring Shrieking in the Rain in line
with another very Japanese subgenre; that of films that look behind the
scenes at the making of sex films. With so many of the country’s directors
either graduating from or oscillating between erotic filmmaking, it is small
wonder that this type of subject matter has proven so enduringly popular.

Back in 1991, MOCHIZUKI Rokuro, a director perhaps best known for his
inventive takes on the yakuza genre in titles such as Another Lonely Hitman
(1995) and Onibi: The Fire Within (1997), gave the world Skinless Night, a
semi-autobiographical portrait of a filmmaker stuck in the rut of hardcore
Adult Video (AV) production attempting to realise his dreams of more artistic
success. SATO Hisayasu and ZEZE Takehisa, both alumni from the field of
independent theatrical softcore known as the pink film (pinku eiga),
sympathetically focussed on the day-to-day existence and psychology of AV
performers in Love & Loathing & Lulu & Ayano (2010) and The Lowlife (2017)
respectively, while an AV shoot was among one of the many activities that
took place under the roof of HIROKI Ryuichi’s Kabukicho Love Hotel (2014).

In 2016, SONO Shion’s Antiporno, realised as part of the Roman Porno
reboot project to mark the 45th anniversary of the launching of the major
studio Nikkatsu’s line of sensational cinematic eroticism, self-referentially
explored the production of such films in which convincing the viewer that
there is little divide between the physical act and the act as depicted is
paramount.

UCHIDA Eiji is hardly a stranger to this type of subject. His earlier Lowlife
Love (2015) depicted a one-off wunderkind of the indie arthouse sector
whose attempts to repeat his previous success are compromised by the
necessity of keeping himself afloat through less reputable forms of
filmmaking. He also wrote and directed some of the episodes (along with
TAKE Masaharu) of The Naked Director, a comedy-drama TV series set in the
pornographic world that went on to garner a wider viewership than any of
the aforementioned titles after it premiered on Netflix in 2019.

Where Shrieking in the Rain differs from all of the above is that the passion project, entitled “As Far as Love Will Take Us”, which its protagonist the
aspiring first-time fictional director HAYASHI Hanako is attempting to get
past the finishing line, is not a hardcore Adult Video or micro-budget pink
film targeted explicitly at the adult market.

It is a commercial mainstream picture being shot on a studio lot during the late 1980s, albeit one where sex becomes an integral part of the attraction after its leading lady, so eager to prove she’s not past her prime, insists on making the climactic love scene with her conceited but callow boy idol co-star quite literally as realistic as possible.

It is an important distinction. While the ends behind all these distinct
categories of erotic film production may be the same, the means are very
different, as we can gauge by the sheer size of the crew involved in the
production in UCHIDA’s film. A large crowd of costumers, sound recordists,
members of the lighting and camera department, not to mention the
principle cast members, all bringing their significant egos to the set as they
attempt to justify their presence and control at the filming of the pivotal
scene.

UCHIDA uses the setup to poke fun at the quirks of Japanese film
censorship when it comes to the depiction of sexual matters. There are jokes
involving the painstaking application of what is known as the ‘maebari’, an
ingenious triangular construction of skin-coloured adhesive tape used in the
pink film industry to cover the crotch area to overcome that show-stopping
no-no of pubic hair or genitals from reaching the screen.

Peculiarly in Japanduring the period portrayed, whether real sex actually takes place before thecameras is less important than it not being explicitly shown. Both theatrical sex films and Adult Video productions targeted at the over-eighteen market have cunningly got around this loophole by using optical fogging and digital mosaics to mask out the offending parts of the images.

For a mainstream film aimed at a widespread audience, however, the application of an R18 rating would signal its commercial death knell, and the producer of “As Far as Love Will Take Us” is quick to jump to the edicts of the emissary from the industry censorship body Eirin who skulks around the set warning against the perils of too long a shot of gyrating hips and suchlike to avoid such a fate.

There’s an aspect of dramatic license in its deployment of Hanako’s
character, a female director with something to prove, at the heart of
Shrieking in the Rain. At time of the film’s setting in 1988, while women
directors had been given virtually no chance to direct within Japan’s major
studio system, both independent pink films and Adult Video at least
provided a few opportunities.

The choice of year is significant nonetheless, in that it marks the climax of
the traditional studio heyday. Nikkatsu discontinued its own Roman Porno
adult line around that same time, and within a few more years filed for
insolvency.

Toei would slim down its production and reorient its resources
towards the lower-budget straight-to-video V-Cinema line of yakuza and
action films in 1989, while new financing arrangements between interests in
fields such as television, video distribution, overseas sales and film festivals
over the next decade would lead to a burgeoning independent sector with
fresh opportunities in for a new wave of filmmaking talent from a far wider
variety of backgrounds. A character such as Hanako might well have thrived
in this environment. Who knows…
Written By Jasper Sharp

Belmont Filmhouse screening information:

Sat 12 Mar Shrieking in the Rain 3.15 pm
Sun 13 Aristocrats 3.00 pm
Sat 19 Mar Mar The Lone Ume Tree 3.30 pm
Sun 20 Mar Mar Kiba: The Fangs of Fiction 3.15 pm

Dates & Venues:

4 – 13 February ICA, London
28 February – 28 March Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling
5 – 22 February Phoenix, Leicester
5 February – 26 March Firstsite, Colchester
1 – 30 March Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
6 – 27 February Eden Court, Inverness
6 – 27 February Watershed, Bristol
8 – 23 February Depot, Lewes
9 – 27 February Storyhouse, Chester
12 February – 1 March Cambridge Film Trust, Cambridge
2 – 15 March Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee
13 February – 2 March Aberystwyth Arts Centre
13 February – 27 March Hyde Park Picture House,Leeds
2 – 30 March Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
13 February – 27 March Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
4 – 6 March QUAD, Derby
7 – 28 March Cinema City, Norwich, City Screen Picturehouse, York
15 February – 3 March HOME, Manchester
16 February – 16 March Brewery Arts Cinema, Kendal
21 February – 31 March Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
26 February – 20 March Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast
8 – 31 March Showroom Cinema, Sheffield
12 – 20 March Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen
15 – 29 March Plymouth Arts Cinema, Plymouth
18 – 24 March Broadway, Nottingham
18 – 24 March Filmhouse, Edinburgh
Sarina Thapa
Sarina Thapa
Sarina Thapa, a film enthusiast and content creator, crafts engaging articles and insights on the latest in cinema. Her fresh takes and in-depth insights offer cinephiles a delightful new lens to view the ever-evolving landscape of film.
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