Love Hunter shows what happens when things stop being nice and start getting real world. College student Kazuo loves his girlfriend, but what is that strange engaged older woman doing in the meadow? She is sexed up and looking for any young man that can strike her fancy. Will Kazuo slip down that slope and become a sexually depraved young man?
It’s a Nikkatsu movie, so the answer is yes. What works with Love Hunter is that normally this would become Kazuo’s movie, but Love Hunter doesn’t care about him. This story belongs to the sexually charged Kyoko. She has dreams about making her mother bang her grandfather. For early 70s Japan, this must have been disgusting stuff.
But, her tantalizing offer to bring a young couple into her crazy world is a Red Shoe Diary too far. Love Hunter is best known as being the last Japanese film to be aggressively prosecuted for obscenity. What’s funny is how much of the film plays like a Fetlife fantasy by people who earnestly missed the sexual revolution of the 60s. Now, they’re aggressively stuffing anything they can dream up onto the frame.
The Roman Porno erotic productions were a mess to be polite. But, they tried to work in the same way that 50 Shades of Gray would later entice Western audiences. Hell, I had a reader recommend to me the Top Cow series “Sugar” and” Swing” over the Christmas break to get a sense of what Nikkatsu was trying with the Roman Porno films. It did help, as I was looking to find a way to dissect what constitutes a Pink film.
When compared against the violent Pink films and random offerings of the time, the Roman Pornos were more romantic in a way. They gave into carnal pleasures, while focusing on what it means to be obsessed with the flesh. The drama was related to relationships and how some people pervert them. Out of all the Pink Films of the era, I’m still shocked that Love Hunter got singled out.
But, I think it was more related to having one of the lead women describe her sexual fantasies in such graphic detail. People forget how long ago this was and there was very little equivalent in American cinema. Everyone tries to pull out the Last Tango in Paris flag, but outside of some on-set grossness…it doesn’t apply. Why not?
Nikkatsu got in serious legal trouble over Love Hunter. Not because it did anything new, but because it put the ideas out there. Dirty books, stag reels and even exploitation films have existed around the world to offer up things the average person hadn’t seen. But, Nikkatsu loved to anchor women as the gateway to these sexual fantasies.
I’m not going to get on a Liberal Arts soapbox, but Japan at the time was in a far different headspace. Although, they still went out of their way to hide pubic hair and penetration at every single angle. These were sanitized sexual fantasies designed for people who were growing up as the first generation after the War. From a historical standpoint, that makes films like Love Hunter into fascinating artifacts.
But, it doesn’t make them any good.
The AndersonVision patented rant on Love Hunter
It took me a long while to get into the Nikkatsu movies sent by Impulse Pictures. When it comes to Nikkatsu, I tend to enjoy their Gangster movies and things like that. However, the Pink Films always hit me weird. Erotic cinema has its place, but audiences respond to films like that in a super different way.
That doesn’t necessarily make you a prude or anything. It just means that you don’t need to watch Japanese women with Karen Allen haircuts having sexual fantasies about her family. If you dig the cougar sort of setup, you don’t even totally get that there.
So, what’s the grand takeaway? Let’s be honest here, people like different aspects of Sex in Cinema. Love Hunter and its ilk was created to sell softcore porn to mainstream Japanese audiences in a post Mishima world. It’s not different than the mafia setting up independent distributors in America to help move titles made by Florida regional directors to mainstream porn.
Both events happened around the same time and they inadvertently made new indie film channels that prosper in various ways today. If these films weren’t popular, then nobody would have made them. So, somebody out there must have found Love Hunter to be hot.
I’m not one of them, but Impulse sent over two other movies that I found WAY MORE fascinating. We’ll be talking about those soon.
The Love Hunter Blu-ray details
Synapse/Impulse Pictures brings Love Hunter to Blu-ray with quite the same bonus features as before. I’d recommend it to the Nikkatsu collectors.