Here’s a film that makes David Lynch look like Pat Boone. A wildly fetishistic, claustrophobic Japanese production made in 1968, THE BLIND BEAST (a.k.a. MOJU) is profoundly bizarre. It’s hard to know how to respond to its excesses; some moments are genuinely unsettling, others merely provoke (unintended?) laughter. At any rate, this is one of the few films I can unhesitatingly recommend with the old cliche: You’ve never seen anything like it.
Based upon a
novel by Edogawa Rampo, Japan’s leading
mystery writer, this outrageous film was directed by Yasuzo
Masumara, the father of the Japanese “New Wave” of the sixties.
While it might not exactly be on the tip of everyone’s tongue
today, THE BLIND BEAST caused quite a stir during its initial
release, eclipsing in notoriety all of Masumara’s other
(oft-outrageous) films. Its influence on Japanese cinema has
been wide-ranging, most notably in the films of Nagisa Oshima.
Oshima’s ground-breaking IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (a.k.a. AI
NO CORRIDA, 1976), with its story of obsessive, all-consuming
physical passion, owes much to Masumara’s film. See also David
Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, whose giant sculptures look suspiciously
Playing on themes of male dominance and objectification
of the female body, the story concerns a young model, Aki, who
is kidnapped by Michio, a blind, demented sculptor determined to
create the perfect statue. He takes her to a secluded farmhouse
where he lives with his mother. The house contains a bizarre
room, the sculptor’s masterpiece. In one of the most unusual
settings in film history, each wall contains large reproductions
of the female anatomy: One wall shows nothing but eyes, another
noses, etc. In the center of the room two giant nude bodies
recline, one male, one female.
At first Aki is understandably distraught, but she
comes to respect and even love her captor, eventually going
blind herself due to lack of sunlight (the room’s only
illumination is a ghostly ceiling light). The film’s remaining
moments are a series of increasingly violent sado-masochistic
sex scenes as the two attempt to come together atop the giant
nude sculptures. The film climaxes with Michio chopping off
Aki’s arms and legs (nearly twenty five years before Jennifer
Lynch’s BOXING HELENA), and then committing suicide.
A simple plot summary
cannot do justice to the psychotic, near-otherworldly tone this
film achieves. Nothing like this has been done before, or since.
Making the most of his claustrophobic setting,
Yasuzo Masumara uses mostly static shots, with the gigantic body
parts often crowding the foreground. He also focuses
relentlessly on hyperbole and grotesquerie, employing graphic
(for 1968) sex and violence (in keeping with the lurid
storyline). Some will argue that he makes his point a little too
explicitly, often provoking laughter. Still, the tone is
everything: Masumara sucks us into a world where body parts
exist as fetish objects and human contact is impossible. The film
is a throwback to a time when movies really took chances. It's
also a prime example of Japanese cinema at its most demented.
You have been warned...
BLIND BEAST (a.k.a. MOJU)
Director: Yasuzo Masumara
Producer: Masaichi Nagata
Screenplay: Yoshio Shirasoka
(Based on a novel by Edogawa Rampo)
Cinematographer: Setsuo Kobayashi
Cast: Eiji Funakoshi, Mako Midori, Noriko Sengoku