Monday, July 8, 2013

The Ito Seiu Films

Artist of the bizarre, Ito Seiu, 1882-1961
For a comprehensive writeup on the father of modern kinbaku, Ito Seiu, check out Nawapedia. This entry, though long and painstakingly translated, doesn't include the list of films that were about Ito or included him in some way. For that, there's Nawapedia's sister site, SMpedia (J).

The films that have to do with Ito are:

End of the Bizarre (猟奇の果て), 1966, Yamabe Pro
Beauty's Exotic Dance, Torture! (発禁本 美人乱舞 より 責める!), 1977, Nikkatsu
Three-Sided Figure Dream, (三面夢姿繪), 2000, A&E Films
Oyo (およう), 2002, Shochiku

Not surprisingly, the most elusive of these works is the first one. Dan Oniroku is credited as the screenwriter and it starred Yabuki Yukari, whom we talked a bit about in a previous post.

According to JMDb, this was her first film. They list 16 in all and she appears not to have been a stranger to the kind of roughies churned out by Yamabe Nobuo back in the day.

Nawapedia mentions that Dan Oniroku published a novel by the same name also in 1966 which was about Ito Seiu. The name in romaji is Ryoki no Hate (pronounced hah-tay). Now, as we know, many of Dan's written works were turned into films but this seems too close. I'll have to see if I can find out if this title, End of the Bizarre, was both a film and a novel.

Speaking of the bizarre, this is a magazine called Ryoki (Bizarre) from 1947 which contained an article either by or about Ito Seiu.

Ryoki (Bizarre) magazine, 1947
The second film is probably the most recognizable. The Japanese title is too cumbersome to be both precisely and concisely translated into English. And so, we will just go with Beauty's Exotic Dance.

Beauty's Exotic Dance, Torture! Nikkatsu, 1977
This is the only one of the four I have actually seen, but that was ages ago and I've completely forgotten the story. I had also forgotten about the VHS tape stashed away in a closet. Too bad I don't have a working player.

This one stars Miyashita Junko. One source says she plays the role of "Tae". I don't know who "Tae" is. Maybe this movie doesn't adhere too closely to the actual events of Ito's life.

Miyashita Junko
The third one was completely unknown to me until I started looking into things a bit for this post. The best translation I can come up with is Three-Sided Figure Dream.

Apparently, it was made in 2000 but one source says the theatrical release was in 2004. It was produced by A&E Films. Somehow I don't think this is the same A&E most Americans are familiar with.

Three-Sided Figure Dream, A&E Films, 2000
The fourth and last film having to do with Ito Seiu is simply titled Oyo. I haven't seen this one, either, but definitely want to. Oyo (real name Sasaki Kaneyo) was a young girl when she moved to Tokyo with her mother from her native Akita prefecture.

I remember reading somewhere that her mother worked as a street vendor and Oyo took a job in some sort of factory. At some point she joined a modeling agency and then came into contact with Ito and subsequently became his mistress and model. I believe Ito was still married to his first wife at the time and that wife, if I'm not mistaken, never took part in any of his shenanigans.

You can check the dates on Nawapedia but two things are disturbing here: the non-existence of child labor laws and the age at which Oyo began modeling for Ito Seiu. Yikes.

Oyo, Shochiku, 2002
After Ito, Oyo went on to model for other famous artists, including Yumeji Takehisa and Fujishima Takeji. I'm not sure of the details of her relationship with Fujishima, but she was apparently Takehisa's lover. At the age of 20 she gave birth but the boy died soon after. She attempted suicide.

It seems none of her relationships with artists ended happily. According to Japanese Wikipedia, she eventually married a doctor and settled into life as a humble housewife, passing away in 1980 at the age of 76.

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