Wet Woman In The Wind (Kaze ni nureta onna)
Japan (2016) Dir. Akihiko Shiota
Q: When is a porno not a porno?
A: When it’s a Roman Porno!
Nothing to do with a horny Julius Caesar, but a cinematic movement from Japan created in the early 70’s to combat falling cinema attendance. The idea was for major studio Nikkatsu, to produce “legit” soft-core films running for less than 80 minutes with nudity and simulated bonking but with better actors, bigger budgets, all shot in a week or less.
To mark the 45th anniversary of Roman Porno, five current directors were asked to make their own version abiding by the above rules, and to see how it would work through a modern lens. Noted names like Hideo Nakata and Sion Sono (who naturally subverted the whole idea with his entry Antiporno) were signed up for this Reboot project, as was Akihiko Shiota, director of the live action Dororo.
Kosuke Kashiwagi (Tasuku Nagaoka) is a playwright from Tokyo hiding away in a remote shack in a rural town to rejuvenate his creative juices, believing solitude will help him forget his problems. Whilst sitting quietly by a river mouth, a young woman Shiori (Yuki Mamiya) cycles into the river, gets out, undresses and tells Kosuke she wants to sleep with him. Kosuke isn’t interested, literally dumping her in the woods, but Shiori says he’ll come around.
Soon, everywhere Kosuke goes Shiori is there – working as a waitress in his favourite café or turning up at his shack but he still resists her. Not ready to admit defeat, Shiori ups the ante by bringing lovers to Kosuke’s shack, getting in his head by making other men jealous of him and even seducing Kosuke’s ex-wife Kyoko (Michiko Suzuki) and her entire acting troupe to get Kosuke worked up.
It is fortunate that Wet Woman In The Wind is presented as a comedy otherwise its askew depiction of sexual politics would be the subject of much dissention among film scholars trying to justify and contextualise the rampant promiscuity of Shiori in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Shiori may be a free spirit (maybe even abuses the mantle) but the whole film hinges on her need to be satisfied sexually and having Kosuke be the one to do it.
Most men would obviously think this a dream scenario, a foxy, uninhibited young woman literally begging for it instead of making them work for it, but through a feminist lens, it is the worst case of male wish fulfilment, the very thing they are trying to rid cinema of. So how does Shiota turn this into a comedy situation? Kosuke fulfils this role as the pretentious tortured playwright looking to nature to validate his artistic foibles more to himself than anyone else.
By refusing Shiori’s advances, Kosuke should technically be seen as noble man for not wanting to take advantage of her, even if she is handing it to him on a plate (ironically the one thing she didn’t try but this is only 76 minutes long). In all fairness, Shiori is a blank slate character wise, so what we see is essentially what we get, at least until she goes into overdrive to get Kosuke’s attention, then she starts to look quite frightening.
Small details like motive, backstory, etc. are not even considered to help flesh Shiori out; we are left to judge her on her actions, just as Kosuke is. There is one moment which almost shines a light on something possibly pertinent – Shiori tries to seduce the café owner Kubouchi (Ryushin Tei) but instead he forces himself onto her which she resists, because she is wearing his estranged wife’s clothes.
Does this mean Shiori respects the sanctity of marriage? Or is wearing another woman’s clothes a bit creepy for her? Or does sex only happen on her terms? The latter is the only question that is answered, as Shiori fends off an early attempt by Kosuke to give in to her, telling Kosuke he is not ready. The casualty of this teasing is Kyoko’s shy assistant Yuko (Hitomi Nakatani), who Kosuke rogers in response to Shiori’s romp with four male actors in a caravan. This should be seen as rape but Yuko is a fan of Kosuke’s so somehow this isn’t discussed as such.
Pat Benatar famously sang about Sex As A Weapon, and this is applicable to divining Shiori’s actions, using sex to control men, open them up to accepting their base selves, or in Kosuke’s case, helping him take his head out of his backside. The lingering question is what does Shiori get from this? Where is her satisfaction? She calls herself a sex hunter but what does that mean beyond carnal pleasure?
Quite possibly I am over-thinking the themes and messages Shiota is trying to impart (if there are any) but only because I’m trying to avoid relating the entire plot (which is hard because the best bits to discuss are spoilerific) and because it is hard not to simply discuss just the sexual aspect which is the film’s raison d’être. Thanks to Shiori, sex is on everyone’s minds as if it is the only avenue to happiness, something celebrated in a concurrent triple bonk fest, one of which literally brings the house down.
Amazingly for such a prurient film, this is quite accessible; Shiota’s tight script ensures the sex scenes are not gratuitous and serves a purpose, as well as having fun with them too (name me another film where rampant lovers make a sandwich DURING physical congress). The cast all seem at ease with their dubious lusty roles and the attendant nudity, though as gravure idol, this was a busman’s holiday for Yuki Mamiya as Shiori, but she can act too! And her entrance is one of the greatest in cinema, believe me.
For something this smutty, Wet Woman In The Wind shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is but if you want some laughs, probing artistic drama, and cheap thrills in under 80-minutes, this is your film.