Gate of Flesh (1964)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama


Gate of Flesh (1964) Poster

An injured thief on the run finds sanctuary within a brothel of united, ruthless women.


7.5/10
2,519

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  • Yumiko Nogawa in Gate of Flesh (1964)
  • Gate of Flesh (1964)
  • Gate of Flesh (1964)
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User Reviews


21 September 2001 | zetes
10
| We need to see more films of this type from Japan in the US
I was under the impression when I rented this film that it was

directed by Sezuki Seijun, but the credits gave a different name. It

still might be him (it was something else Sezuki), and I am

assuming it was as I write this review.

Having totally fallen in love with Branded to Kill and, to a slightly

lesser extant, but not too much lesser, with Tokyo Drifter, I was

overjoyed to find this at the video store (I remembered having

heard at one point of its being on video). And I was even more

overjoyed to watch it. It's an amazing film which I would place

slightly ahead of Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill, giving it a 9/10.

The film opens right after the end of WWII with a young woman

starving in the street (not something I would expect from the two

previous yakuza films I've seen of Seijun's). She meets up with a

group of four prostitutes who allow her to work with them. They are

self-sufficient and need no pimp. They keep themselves in line

with the threat of torture if any one of them ever sleeps with a man

without accepting money. Of course, you can see the possibility for

exploitation, and there is exploitation, believe me. After a while, a

robust thug (Jo Shishido of Branded to Kill, cheekbones and all)

shows up in their crumbling household. They respect him

because he resists the GIs who try to keep the law in their city

(never specified) and those Japanese people who cooperate with

them. They're also all attracted to him. After this is developed, there

isn't much more plot - only a couple of events happen afterwards.

More or less, it is a character study and also a sociological study.

The anti-Americanism is very interesting to see. Seijun was a

soldier in the Japanese army himself and, although I could easily

point out that, hey, you started it, it's easy to understand what he

must have felt after he and his comrades lost a war, what it would

have done to the male psyche as well as the female (this film was

made about twenty years afterwards).

Some people would naturally hate this film because it mixes its

styles, often very harshly. It's really nothing that Godard wouldn't

have done - in fact, it's actually something that Godard, despite my

great affection for him and his films, could never have achieved; he

was far too interested in subverting filmic conventions and too

unconcerned with making interesting films at times. It is filmed in

color, and its art design/cinematography/costuming, everything

technical, is color coordinated in a way akin to something like a

1950s musical. Four of the five prostitutes are color-coated and

there is, for instance, an amazing scene where these four color- specific hookers muse over Shishido alone against a set

designed only in their colors. Often the film is quite melodramatic,

almost like a Douglas Sirk film. At other times, it is something like

sado-masochistic porno, especially during the torture scenes.

There are scenes akin to the brutality in Tokyo Drifter and Branded

to Kill; there is some major brutality to women (sometimes

inflicted by women), so if you're particularly sensitive to that, you

might want to avoid this. Also, if that's a problem with you, take

special measures to avoid Branded to Kill. You might want to skip

over this next description tot he next paragraph if you very easily get

sick or if you're a militant animal rights activist, but there is a

stunning scene where Jo Shishido slaughters a live cow. I'm pretty

sure it's a real scene of slaughter. If not, then it's a damned good

facsimile. If you were horrified at the real scenes of sacrifice in

Apocalypse Now, you might just want to avoid this film altogether.

The bottom line for me is that this film is a masterpiece. An insane

one, to be sure, but this film, as well as Tokyo Drifter and Branded

to Kill, demonstrate just how gorgeous insanity can be

sometimes. Janus Films, whose logo you see on the videotapes

before just about 90% of all foreign films that were made before

1970, and Home Vision Cinema, who distributes about everything

made after 1970, collaborated on the videotape that I watched,

which recently went out of print. Those two companies should be

ringing tons of bells for anyone who collects videos. Yup, those are

the two companies who produce DVDs' (and Laserdiscs') Criterion Collection, the only DVDs, in the long run, which are really

worth owning. This company has already released both Branded

to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. I pray to God - I'd even sell my soul to the

devil - so that Criterion will release Gate of Flesh and - please,

please God! (or Satan!) - other Seijun films, or even other films

which generally resemble his, if such other artists do exist, that I

have not seen or even heard of. Think about it Criterion. I know that

Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter aren't your most popular DVDs,

but, having talked to so many people who are discovering them

and having never resisted an opportunity to spread his name and

reputation to any other film buff I have met (and others who are

familiar with him do the same), I know that he is becoming a huge

cult item. In my mind, judging only by the three films of his that I've

seen, I prefer him even to Akira Kurosawa (I cannot comment on

Ozu or Mizoguchi; unfortunately, I have only ever seen one Ozu and

no Mizoguchis, merely based on availability), whom I generally

prefer to nearly every filmmaker with whom I am very familiar.

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Storyline

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Genres

Drama

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