Friday, August 26, 2005

Go, Go Second Time Virgin (Wakamatsu, 1969)

Koji Wakamatsu's Go, Go Second Time Virgin starts out like an exploitation flick, with the central female character being raped by a group of young men on the concrete roof of a high-rise building. The opening credits roll over the top of her face as different men take their turn on top of her. Soon thereafter, she reveals in a flashback that she has been raped before, on the beach as the tide rolled in beneath her and her assailants. The following morning, she wakes up on top of the building, still lying in the same place, blood between her legs. When her attackers return, she asks to be killed, but instead is raped a third time. By this time, viewers may understandably be demanding a point. Is this some kind of Japanese pre-cursor to the mean-spirited exercise in degradation, I Spit on Your Grave? Thankfully not.

The key is in the execution. Daniel Wible, writing for, describes how the woman is "brutally gang-raped." Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a case in which one would not use the word 'brutal' to describe rape. The adjective is essentially implied by the action. However, despite frequent shots of the woman's partially disrobed body, the way in which Wakamatsu shoots this opening sequence is hardly grisly. Yes, it is disturbing to see these men force themselves upon this young woman, but what does Wakamatsu actually show us? The men carrying her to the roof ... the men holding her down and pulling at her clothing ... the men lying on top of her one by one, notably without removing their pants. It may seem like a silly observation, but Wakamatsu's decision not to go for unflinching realism and have the male actors drop their trousers keeps the rape in the realm of ideas. Even though we are repelled by the idea of rape, we know that the woman cannot really be violated through a pair of pants. There is no showy method acting, no attempt to bludgeon the viewer's senses, no effort to create an illusion.

Why is this an important distinction? Because as the bizarre events of the film continue to unfold, the woman's existence and the acts to which she has been subjected rise to the level of absurdity. No, I am not saying that her victimhood ever becomes comical. However, it does become absurd. The distinction is key, because part of Wakamatsu's motivation seems to be to take the trappings of the expolitation film and then make a critical observation about how exploitation films are fueled by mankind's seemingly unquenchable desire for sex and violence. The entirety of the film takes place within the different levels of this high-rise building. No doubt this was a sound economical decision, but it also underscores the way in which the characters are trapped within a closed system of impulsive violence and sexuality. If we remind ourselves that the film was released in 1969, then Wakamatsu's reaction against the more decadent aspects of his time make even more sense.

I have purposefully said little about the unusual young man that initially watches the gang rape happen and then later becomes the young woman's partner in existential crisis. I will allow viewers to discover the equally shocking course of his character development for themselves. I will simply say that over the course of the film's 65-minute run-time, I joyfully watched as trash became gold, as Russ Meyer became Samuel Beckett. Go, Go Second Time Virgin occasionally gets silly and indulges in the very decadence that it presumably seeks to critique; however, there is something unforgettable about a film in which a nude woman and a man drenched in blood chase each other playfully around a city rooftop and it actually means something. Honestly.



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