UNDERWATER LOVE (Onna no kappa), 2011, Japan, Dir: Shinji Imaoka


There is a delirious joy and passion at the core of UNDERWATER LOVE that should be inspiring to anyone who feels there is a dearth of creativity in contemporary film. Here we have a host of sights and sounds that are brand new to us, rendered vividly by a variety of masters. Legendary “pinku eiga” director Shinji Imaoka(UNCLE’S PARADISE) is at the helm, with a script originally fashioned by Midnight Eye editor Tom Mes, then reshaped by Imaoka himself along with actor Fumio Moriya. The cinematography is by the undeniably great Christopher Doyle(CHUNKGKING EXPRESS) and the music is created by German/French electronic wham-bammers Stereo Total. The involvement of so much international talent stems from the fact that the film was financed by a German company, a rarity for pink films old or new. Everything about this production is unusual, from the way it was made to the details of the story itself.



What we have here is a mythological musical softcore film which depicts the relationship between a woman approaching middle-age and a humanoid turtle creature known as a kappa. There is a love triangle, a god of death, interspecies intercourse, musical numbers, and of course a mystical anal pearl. All of these elements swirl together to form an immensely satisfying and consistently absurd romp through Japanese folklore via the universal act of coitus. The plot itself is fairly entertaining but it is the attitude of the piece that really makes it delightful. Shot over the course of a week with no time to slow down, there is an anarchic spirit that leaks into the film and infects every frame. The songs bounce around between sincerity and ridiculousness while the dance choreography looks like they filmed a rehearsal. The sex scenes are vigorous if a little strange and I think we can all agree that we want to see what a kappa penis looks like.



Considering the movie is designed as a vehicle for kinky sex, there is also a surprising amount of sweetness and heart. We come to genuinely care about the characters and hope that everything works out alright for them. We are on their side whether they are copulating, sumo wrestling, or attempting to insert a magical object into their rectums. There is not much more you can ask of a film. It’s exhilarating to witness a small group of committed people seemingly exhausting themselves to bring you entertainment. Especially if the resulting work not only delivers in every way expected but also offers rewards you would have no way to expect. The possibility that there might be a few films like UNDERWATER LOVE in any given year is reason enough to keep watching and hoping for the best. One film of this calibre can get you through six months of dreck.





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