Japanese 'Pink Film' Festival Celebrates 50 Years of Soft Porn
TOKYO — A tribute to Japanese softcore porn, or “pink films” is now running in Tokyo's Ginza Cine Pathos theater in the Chuo Ward district through Sept. 9.
“Pink Film Chronicle 1962-2012,” a 28-film retrospective celebrates 50 years of the low-budget indie erotic pink films (pinku eiga) that were once a guilty pleasure in more than 1,000 local theaters.
“Around each station of private rail lines there was a pink theater,” industry veteran and manager for distributor Shintoho Akira Mori told the Tokyo Reporter.
Similar to Porn Valley’s production methods, the pink films were short with a comparable feature budget (around $35,000), were done in about three days, had six scenes, and ran roughly 60 minutes.
But reflecting a stark cultural difference form U.S. porn, although they contained nudity, the script-driven movies are not considered typical porn because the films often featured bondage, rape, and public molestation scenes.
Home video in the ‘80’s made the movies widely accessible and although their popularity is waning with only about 80 theaters left, the festival is resurrecting interest with titles the 1993 Shintoho film “Obscenities of Japan,” that commemorates the company’s 30 years of business is at the time of its release in 1993.
“It had a huge budget, twice what was standard, a lot of actresses, and it introduced Japan’s erotic past from the Taisho Period (1912-26),” Mori said. The film starred Shinji Kubo, a self-described “prince of porn,” who boasts more than 800 features.
Kubo said a big attraction of the pink films was the mystery of whether there was real sex going on during the “soft” scenes.
Some notable films of the genre include director Satoru Kobayashi’s 1962 black-and-white torture production “Flesh Market,” the first “non-stag” movie to introduce nudity, and Tetsuji Takechi’s bigger budget mainstream dental fantasy “Daydream,” that created censorship controversy over visible female pubic hair.
“The films are easy to watch,” Mori said. “The theaters screen three titles each day, and moviegoers can come and go as they want for one price. It is cheap entertainment.”
Many Japanese moviegoers no doubt will attend the event to recall female performer Yumika Hayashi, one of the stars in “Obscenities of Japan” and probably the most recognizable name in the genre who died mysteriously in 2005.
Hayashi was known for performing “unbelievable” acts and was a big winner at the Pink Grand Prix, an annual event sponsored by industry publication PG that honors the best pink films.
The festival also hopes to keep the legacy alive, pointing to pink directors who have gone on to mainstream success including Yojiro Takita, a prolific pink film veteran whose movie “Departures,” won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2009.