Friday, October 14, 2022

#2,837. Blind Beast (1969)


The story goes that Japan’s Daiei Studios had, by 1969, seen a decline in box office receipts, and were looking to delve into more explicit subject matter to lure their audience back into the theater. While I can’t say for sure what other films the studio released using this same strategy, I doubt there were many quite as shocking, quite are uninhibited as Yasuzo Masumura’s Blind Beast.

Based on a book by Edogawa Rampo, Blind Beast is considered an entry in Japan’s Ero Guru (aka Erotic Grotesque) subgenre, which, according to Wikipedia, is “an artistic genre that puts its focus on eroticism, sexual corruption, and decadence”. The movie relates the story of fashion model Aki Shima (Mako Midori), who, after posing nude for a famous photographer, finds herself stalked and eventually kidnapped by Michio (Eiji Funakoshi), a blind artist who wants to create a sculpture of Aki’s body simply by touching her.

Dragged to Michio’s warehouse studio, where he lives with his loving mother (Norkio Sengoku), Michio gets to work, and though at first repelled by her captor, Aki soon finds herself drawn to Michio in ways she never imagined.

This synopsis alone is troubling, even misogynistic, and Blind Beast certainly features moments which cross that line. The movie also deals quite frankly with the subject of masochism, which, like its main characters’ affections for one another, grows more intense with each passing minute, culminating in a final sequence that will have you wondering what the hell it is you’re watching.

The three-person cast does an outstanding job conveying the complex emotions of their characters; Michio’s initial intent in kidnapping Aki was for artistic reasons. Having worked as a masseuse, he had sculpted a number of women from memory, but feels Aki’s body is his first “perfect” subject, and the resulting creation will surely be his masterpiece. Michio’s confused mentality is presented perfectly by actor Funakoshi; we don’t agree with his methods, but we understand his motivations.

That changes when, following a violent outburst, he and Aki (also played superbly by Midori) take their warped “professional” relationship to a more intense, even more twisted “next level”, which, as their passions are enflamed, proves there are no depths to which they will not sink to satisfy their desires.

Also quite brilliant is the film’s main set piece; the scene where Aki first wakes up in Michio’s studio, surrounded by hundreds of sculpted arms, legs, ears, mouths, and breasts adorning the walls, with two kong-sized sculptures of a nude man and woman smack dab in the middle, is as “WTF” a moment as you’re likely to experience (there’s even a bit of humor as Aki tries to run away from Mishio by climbing the gargantuan sculptures, scaling buttocks and breasts in her vain attempt to escape).

Blind Beast does slow down in the middle, when it presents a more standard cat-and-mouse scenario, with Aki working on Michio’s insecurities in the hopes it will help her break free (even going so far as to accuse Michio’s mother of harboring incestuous feelings for her son). But the final half hour of Blind Beast is anything but standard or predictable, and while some may not like where the story ultimately goes (I myself have some major issues with it), kudos must be given to Masamura and his cast for delving deep into their characters' dark, twisted psyche, and in the process crafting a motion picture that, at the very least, will inspire plenty of discussion.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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