MUBI is a streaming service catering to cinephiles who believe in quality over quantity. Each day, MUBI adds a new film to its library, where it will stay for 30 days, after which it circulates out and gives room for another new entry. Throughout 2017, we will highlight one MUBI movie per month to help illustrate the catalog’s breadth and importance.
You may have heard that Nikkatsu is bringing back their “Roman Porno” movies, a subgenre popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s for both its salacious content (lots and lots of nudity and sex) and the license Nikkatsu gave filmmakers to go nuts, so long as they included lots and lots of nudity and sex.
Dormant for decades, Roman Porno is making a return with Akihiko Shiota’s Wet Woman in the Wind and Sion Sono’s Anitporno, both getting theatrical distribution from MUBI. The former is streaming on MUBI right this very second.
Wet Woman in the Wind definitely starts on a defiant note. A playwright sits next to a harbor when a beautiful woman out of nowhere deliberately rides her bicycle into the water, climbs out, and takes off her wet shirt (which reads “You need tissues for your issues”) right in front of him before demanding he let her stay the night at his place. When he refuses, she playfully climbs on his shoulders and he throws her into a ditch. The film jumps right into things.
She won’t be shaken, however, and the bizarre courtship that follows bears the hallmarks of a cute romantic comedy but with most beats replaced with sex scenes. We don’t know why this strange girl (Shiori, played by Yuki Mamiya) is so interested in the playwright (Kosuke, played by Tasuku Nagaoka), but even in mainstream romantic comedies the pairings often don’t make much real romantic sense. True to the genre, the biggest romantic sparks actually erupt between side characters - love is in the air all over the place both because it’s heartwarming and so Shiota can show more characters getting it on. Shiori’s initial attempts to win Kosuke’s heart fail. And when she finally does get his attention, she decides to withhold herself from her. They instead fall in love by watching each other have sex with others and occasionally beating the shit out of one another.
It’s bizarre, yet somehow manages to also be cute and funny, even in the face of rampant eroticism. This unlikely marriage of tones climaxes during a late scene in which we witness a couple frantically eat and screw at the same time, depleted by their marathon lovemaking but also too invested to stop long enough for a sandwich. The gender politics are garbage, and the idea of consent is confusing at best, but it’s Roman Porno - these are films shot in a week with a demand for sex scenes and/or nudity every ten minutes. Troubling aspects are probably to be expected.
The sex itself is all above-the-waist stuff, with acts staying largely on the vanilla side of things. Since nearly every major scene ends with a coupling of some sort, lovemaking tends to provide the literal climax to many plot developments, such that after a while, you begin viewing it as an active part of the story, which is an interesting trick for a movie like this to pull off. Even at its dirtiest, it manages to still be a rather adorable love story about two very weird people.