Saturday, September 23, 2023

Bishimai nikudorei (1986)

... aka: 美姉妹肉奴隷
... aka: Beautiful Sisters: Flesh Slaves

Directed by:
Katsuhiko Fujii

Was there a Japanese movie from the 70s or 80s that didn't paint sex in nasty, negative light? Now it may be because I watch so many horror and suspense movies, but the vast majority of Japanese erotic films I've seen from this era focus specifically on the darker sides of sex and relationships. Perhaps it's a cultural thing; a primal scream from more open-minded individuals trapped in a somewhat sexually conservative environment. In a way, it's actually refreshing. A lot of sex films tend to be ridiculous and unrealistic; the best way to ruin a fantasy is to introduce some reality into the equation, eh? Female critics have often pointed out that "sexually liberated" women depicted in more "sex positive" erotica are anything but. They aren't liberated so much as they're just not very discerning about who they'll have sex with. That's because men made the vast majority of these films and that's probably how many would prefer it. They'd love for every beautiful young woman to happily give themselves freely to any and every sod who shows them the least bit of interest.

What stands out about many of these darker Japanese movies is the melancholy undercurrent running through them. The characters usually want healthy sex lives, and love, but somehow society seems to always prevent it. The air of shame and repression is often heavy, with characters in such need of release that the men are reduced to sexually ravenous "beasts" who take what they want and the women have to try to avoid them, accept them or even, as is the case with one character here, somehow learn to enjoy it.

Films like this are often written off as sexist fantasies, but it should also be pointed out that the men are consistently portrayed as complete scumbags while the women are usually shown in a much more sympathetic light as victims of the uncontrollable male libido. It should also be noted that the men almost always doom themselves with their terrible behavior while the women are usually able to turn the tables, get revenge, evolve and move into a dominant position by the end. To some viewers, that may not justify watching over an hour of them being roughed up and sexually assaulted to get to that point. Trust me, I completely understand!

Reiko Yumioka (Rei Akasaka) has recently graduated from dentistry school and just moved into a new highrise office space with enough room for both her clinic and a small apartment. She's hired her younger sister Kyôko (Megumi Kiyosato) to work as the receptionist. The two women just finish up with a female client when a man - Ryôhei Taki (Isao Nonaka) - shows up claiming to have a toothache. With just the two ladies and him in the office / apartment, he pulls out a knife and makes the two women lock the door and put a closed sign out front. He then drags them back to a bedroom and demands "Strip!"

When Kyôko refuses and tries to run out, he slices her arm, rips her clothes off and then rubs his blade all over her breasts and crotch, scaring the girl so bad she urinates herself. Big sis offers up her own body in exchange for sparing her sister. Kyôko makes it to the bathroom and locks herself inside as the intruder has her sister strip and lie down on the bed. He feels her up and sticks his finger in her mouth, questioning why she isn't aroused (gee I wonder) and then demands she make him some instant ramen.

Before all is said and done, both of the sisters are raped and beaten multiple times. At first terrified, the more reserved and inexperienced Kyôko starts suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and begins craving sex from her attacker. Like a beaten dog, the shittier he treats her, the more she comes crawling back, craving what he has to offer. She also turns against her sister and becomes jealous whenever he decides to rape her instead! Things are much more complicated for Reiko, however. For starters, she's not into men and has a female lover, Mari Tazaki (Kiriko Shimizu) she regularly sees but hasn't yet committed to.

Making Reiko the centerpiece of the film is what ends up lifting this somewhat above the norm. She's having a hard time getting her business going and one gets the impression that has a lot to do with her being a woman. Her former professor, Yoshiaki Masaki (Kazuyuki Senba), is willing to help her financially stay afloat while she's building her practice, but only if she'll have sex with him once a week to "earn" the money. The fact Reiko is a lesbian is yet another tool used by men to try to keep her in her place. Taki even handpicked her establishment specifically because he found out she was a lesbian; assuming she wouldn't go to the police because he could out her and ruin her business / future. He constantly makes digs at her about her sexuality, claiming "I can't trust a lesbian!" and threatening "I'd enjoy killing a lesbian like you!" and even gets her own sister to start mocking her for being a "pervert" and making ridiculous declarations like "I want to be loved by a man!" to make it clear she isn't anything like her sister.

The sad part of the story is that it doesn't even matter that Reiko is a capable, educated, hard-working career woman who simply wants to make a good life for herself and her sister. She's still forced to debase herself and compromise both her pride and her sexuality to make it in a man's world, as well as deal with the constant threat of being ostracized by society if her secret gets out. That leaves the door wide open for an sleazy opportunist, sex predator and criminal (who's revealed to be on the lam for stealing money from his prior job) to exploit her.

What usually holds movies like this back somewhat is the fact it IS a sex film first and foremost and that's the primary objective. It's almost non-stop sex and rape from beginning to end. Nearly all of the uncomfortable encounters start out forcefully or under coercion, but then the women appear to eventually "get into it" and start acting like they're enjoying it. While that completely fits the Kyôko character, it's somewhat of a betrayal when it comes to Reiko, though the fact she's willing to engage in the first place does make sense. Interestingly, the only sex act with fully consenting partners found in the entire film is the brief girl-girl scene between Reiko and her lover at the very beginning. The resolution to the story is interesting and somewhat amusing.

The people who made this could have been content filming "The Erotic Adventures of a Hot Female Dentist and Her Sexy Sister" and had two "sexually liberated" women happily entertaining clientele and be done with it, but they didn't, and I respect that even if the results are mixed. At least they were shooting for something more.

This is part of a loose "Beautiful Sisters" series, though the entries have nothing to do with one another story-wise. Others are Beautiful Sisters: Seduced! (1982), Beautiful Sisters: Strip! (1985; also featuring Akasaka) and Beautiful Sisters: Panting! (1987; also featuring Kiyosato). The director had a long and prolific pink movie career stretching back to the early 70s and includes over 50 titles, so I'm probably not done with him just yet.

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