Blind Beast - Moju (Masumura Yasuzo 1969)


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Blind Beast
[Moju]

Genre: Philosophical Exploration into Absolute Hedonism

review in one breath

A blind sculptor convinced that a new era of tactile-centric art is necessary, abducts and holds captive a leading model in the hopes of convincing her to participate in his artistic dream. What ensues is a truly remarkable avalanche of human emotion, instinct and depravity. Here director Masamura leads audiences down seemingly harmless philosophical corridors until we too are convinced of his mind-breaking conclusion.


intro

Masumura Yasuzo is a remarkably credentialed and renowned Japanese director who remains quite under-appreciated or unknown to mainstream Western audiences. His personal interests involve as much cinematography as history and philosophy, as is evidenced in the thematic content of many of his over 60 films. After earning a Law degree from prestigious Tokyo University, he turned his interests toward Japanese cinema. In 1950, his essay on the history of Japanese cinema earned him entrance into Rome's premiere school of film, Centro Sperimentale Cinematografico.

Blind Beast is based on a story by Edogawa Rampo whose personal admiration for Edgar Allen Poe resulted in his using a ghost-writer name derived from the macabre author. (Note: "edo go wa ran po" is the Japanese pronunciation of Edgar Allen Poe.) Rampo's literature is notorious for its focus upon the darker side of human nature, and Blind Beast is no exception. In fact, this tale is such a remarkable exploration into the recesses of human existential experience that it is little wonder it attracted the attention of Masamura.

In essence this is a perverted exploration into the psyche of a blind sculptor whose lack of sight convinces him that tactile sensation should be afforded the same priority as sight. This thesis seems both harmless and plausible enough for audiences to willingly follow the narrative's logical trajectory. But what Rampo and Masumura have in mind is wholly other than what naive viewers and philosophers will expect.

story

When the blind sculptor Michio hears of the the most beautiful model heretofore, he quickly makes his way to the gallery exhibiting a nude sculpture of the model. As he single-mindedly runs his hands over every curve and crevice of the sculpture, the model Aki herself stands at a distance observing.

It soon becomes apparent that Michio is far more than a mere admirer when he connives his way into her home and abducts her to his remote studio. There he shares his vision of a wholly new genre of art, dedicated to the tactile sensation he as a blind man has so thoroughly relied upon.

Michio's weird studio is brimming with physical representations of all the female limbs, lips and facets he has touched. But his goal is an unparalleled exemplar of female beauty, which he has found in the perfect human body of Aki.

What follows is a raw and de-evolutionary struggle by Aki to survive the obsession of her captor. In twists which only writers such as Rampo would adventure, this rather simple story of art, captivity and sensation quickly plummets into a rather profound exploration of the limits whereby humanity ends and primordial animalism begins.

verdict

Though wholly mature in content, this proves to be a thinking man's film, raising rather fearsome philosophical questions regarding the consequences of elevating human tactile experience to the same (or greater) priority we deem visual experience. In essence, this film posits the hedonistic demise of a world in which ALL individuals relied primarily upon the sensation of touch. Though the departure point for this philosophical exploration is the well-intentioned motives of the blind-from-birth Michio, what he and Aki eventually uncover is nothing short of the darkest underbelly of human depravity from which stories of the demonic derive.

Though slow and plodding at the start, this film eventually catapults viewers into a very highly confrontational and queasy climax which Rampo and Masumura have made wholly plausible.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD available via mainstream US venues.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Based on the work of Edogawa Rampo, this 1969 philosophical exploration into human depravity by director Masumura is remarkable. Though primarily implied and off-screen, this film goes beyond conceptual bounds of normalcy. COPIOUS nudity including 15-foot high breasts (with nipples you could trip over!). This is a wholly memorable film if simply for the plausibly sinister philosophical scenario it will confront you with.

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