Poppo, we learn, has had an incredibly dysfunctional past which includes the gang-rape of her mother leading to Poppo’s conception, incest, the suicide of her father with his mistress, the subsequent suicide of her mother out of loneliness, and two rapes. By the time we meet Poppo in this movie, she is nihilistic and consistently reiterates her desire to die. But she will not kill herself, she confesses to Tsukio, rejecting the miserable self-inflicted demise pursued by her mother. The movie opens with Poppo being attacked and raped by a gang of four hooligans. Though she pleads with them to kill her, they only mock her and leave her lying on the roof of an urban apartment building.
As this attack takes place, Tsukio, who lives in the building has followed the gang onto the roof and observes the entire episode. Although he initially looks on with some adolescent excitement, his hatred for the abusers grows throughout the film until his rage explodes in the final scenes. This anger is fueled in great part by the recent abuse he has received at the hands of some tenants of the apartment building. Two couples have been using an apartment for beatnik orgies and in an attempt to satisfy their lust, lured and essentially gang-rape Tsukio. Unlike Poppo, however, Tsukio is very able to act out his anger, and in a fit of rage kills his four attackers in a bloody knife attack.
The common experience of Poppo and Tsukio and their different responses to their plight set up much of the undercurrent of the film. On the surface, the audience will be in for a great deal of sex, violence and drug-induced bizarreness. Stylistically, the entire movie is shot in black and white and takes place within the confines of the apartment building, either on the roof, in the basement or in the bloodied apartment of Tsukio’s attackers. In two shots, both involving our two main characters’ recollection of their attacks, Director Wakamatsu films in vivid color, visually underlining the necessity to view these past traumas as key elements in the tale.
Tsukio and Poppo develop a type of friendship following Poppo’s rape. Their traumatic past allows them to speak with sheer frankness about what has just transpired, and their conversation immediately becomes rather philosophical regarding the plight and fate of victims in the face of utter humiliation. Over the course of their conversations, the two come to appreciate each other, finding a partner with whom full discourse and mutual understanding is possible. This closeness results in Tsukio’s renewed anger when the gang of Poppo’s attackers return for some more humiliation. With visions of his own attackers before his eyes, Tsukio raises the knife to the hoodlums and eventually slays them all. This ability to mete out their own justice and to some degree control their own fate results in a great sense of release and joy for both Tsukio and Poppo who spend the remainder of the night running and playing on the rooftop.
The morning’s light reveals a bloodied and body-strewn roof. Tsukio and Poppo are calmly resting after the night’s events. Now that the day has come Poppo informs Tsukio that she must be taking off, but not before asking whether he loved her. By the time Tsukio comes to the conclusion that he will not answer the question, Poppo has left. Singing a line from his song, “Mama, I’m taking off”, Tsukio decides to follow after Poppo. What follows will leave a knot in your throat.
It would seem that Wakamatsu’s message is one of the consequence of a moral decline within society and the irreparable damage is causes innocent youth. This decline explicitly involves the pursuit of unfettered and often violent sexuality as well as drug and alcohol abuse. During Tsukio’s attack we see the room littered with liquor bottles, while Poppo’s attackers are goofy, mindless glue-sniffers. In both cases, their substance abuse leads to the physical abuse and results in the psychological damage and self-worthlessness permeating our main characters. Despite all their attackers laying in pools of blood at the hand of an outraged Tsukio, the trajectory of damage cannot be avoided. Wakamatsu brings the film to a climactic and sorrowful end which underscores the film’s entire focus on the dreadful outcome of social immorality and injustice.
This film is the creation of Director Koji Wakamatsu who, after filming the Japanese Red Army in the Palestinian territories, became a target of both the Japanese government and Interpol, and was blacklisted by the American government. To this day he is unable to leave Japan. Wakamatsu has been dubbed the “Master of the Pink Movie”, referring to the radical politics and flashy scenes of sex and violence characteristic of his movies. During Japan’s Sixties and Seventies he produced numerous films which were both shocking and celebrated. His film “Affairs in the Wall” (1965) was selected as an entry in the Berlin Film Festival, and his production of Nagisa Oshimaâ€™s In the Realm of the Senses (1976) received critical acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. He has directed over 100 films.