The Pornographers was part of what was considered the “Japanese New Wave” and was a reaction against the work of more classical Japanese directors. This was closely linked to the French “new wave” and many of the same feelings, if not techniques were common to both. Filmmakers of this era were attempting to construct a new cinematic content and the form to fit it, one that contained the contradictions in contemporary Japanese society and an increasingly capitalistic and imperialistic value set. Unlike its cousins around the world, this new wave happened within the highly commercial studio system and only later moved towards more independent productions.
Film within a film is a central aspect of the film, with the director of the film present at the beginning and end of the film in a “test-screening” situation. Pornographic films are produced and watched within the narrative. The voyeurism nature of porn is reflected in the visual style, with a tendency to look in on the action through windows and half-closed doors. The overall voyeurism is highlighted by the director’s presence in the film and calls into question our role as audience.
Incest plays a large role in the story on many levels. The son has a somewhat sexual physical relationship with his mother, the step-father is sleeping with the daughter while thinking of his own mother, and performers in one of the porn productions is revealed to be a father-daughter team. But the family’s incest is not treated as major a problem to them as the influence of the carp, the reincarnation of the deceased husband. The carp holds his desire that his wife ver remarry over the entire film – which could be read as a commentary on how the old traditions of the nation and the values of an older generation affect the new one.
I found the film dragged on, especially after the wife’s dramatic death. What had seemed to be, because of the initial sequences, a serious film about a family living life a bit rough around the edges deteriorated in my mind to slapstick when the executive fell in the river and a cheap laugh when the carp was finally thrown out. After a while I gave up on the family as a bunch of freaks invented by a screenwriter, and stopped paying attention to the film.