Also known under the considerably more salacious English language title of Lovers Are Wet, acclaimed pink film director Tatsumi Kumashiro's Twisted Path Of Love, made in 1973, is one of a few highly sexualized films that the director made in his prime. As fans of the genre know, however, a lot of pink film directors had some pretty lofty aspirations and often times their work would play out more like an arthouse picture than a traditional softcore bump and grind movie. Kumashiro's movies, while heavy on skin, have definitely got more going on than obscured scenes of copulation and kinky bedroom antics.
The rather languid plot follows a young man named Katsu (Toru Ohe) who unapologetically murders a yakuza and finds himself on the run. You can't kill a gangster without repercussions and Katsu would rather avoid as much fallout from this incident as he can. As such, he basically heads back to the dank little fishing village that he grew up in and hides out, even going so far as to try to hide his actual identity from his own, aging mother. As Katsu acclimates himself to his new surroundings, not having been back to his birthplace for a few years, he finds that he's becoming increasingly intrigued by and attracted to a gorgeous woman named Yuko (Rie Nakagawa) who runs the local theater. Yuko's more liberal world view doesn't always work well alongside Katsu's take on things and the fact that she's involved with one of his former classmates is certainly a complication, but he's definitely got his eyes set on her...
Even by the standards of Japanese sex films, Twisted Path Of Love is an odd picture. The sex scenes, obscured by conveniently placed objects or camera trickery due to the strict Japanese film industry censorship laws of the time, has a ferocity to it that makes it more an act of violence than of love or romantic passion. Between the various sex scenes are chunks of plot that almost free-float in the movie, as the script isn't all that concerned with linear narrative so much as it is with atmospheric depictions of cause and effect. A fair bit of the sex in the film is, not so surprisingly, on the kinky or traditionally forbidden side. Power plays are depicted through copulation rather than through more standard arguments and there are scenes here that will leave you with the impression that those we see engaged in fornication aren't so much having sex as they are settling an argument.
Beautifully photography by Director Of Photography Shinsaku Himeda, the film has a fairly dreamlike tone to it that compliments the odd structure of its story quite well. Lingering shots of bodies entwined contrast nicely with camera angles set up to capture the obvious and very real decay of the small, coastal fishing village where all of this drama unfolds. This presents a lot of visual paradoxes in the film, as the beauty of a woman's naked flesh is juxtaposed by the moldy looking surroundings. It's hard to say if there's really a point to all of this, but it's interesting, interesting, and never short of anything less than visually sublime, even when characters are wrestling with inner demons and trying to deal with the loneliness inherent in their situations.
The film does have a sort of naughty-noir quality to it that some will find appealing. Katsu is an interesting enough anti-hero, in trouble for killing a criminal and in turn becoming a criminal himself by his actions. His subsequent run from those who would make him take accountability for his actions sets up the storyline simply but effectively enough that the ensuing melodrama isn't as hard to swallow as it would be otherwise. There's a lot of manic energy in the picture that keeps the pace well timed and that prevents it from stagnating, though the reasonably short running time of seventy-six minutes helps in this department too. Say what you will about its message or lack thereof and of its disjointed structure, but Twisted Path Of Love (a fairly appropriate title in the grand scheme of things) is well made, well acted, and never for a second dull.
Twisted Path Of Love arrives on DVD in a decent 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents the film in its original aspect ratio and is flagged for progressive scan playback. Color reproduction looks nice and accurate as do flesh tones. Detail is generally strong though some scenes are definitely softer than others and it's hard not to notice this. There are no major problems with print damage or noticeable debris, in fact, the image is surprisingly clean looking even if some specks do work their way in from time to time. Some grain is present, which is to be expected, but otherwise the film looks very good.
The Japanese language Dolby Digital Mono track on the DVD sounds fine. There are no problems with hiss or distortion and the performers are always audible. The score sounds good but doesn't ever get overly loud and the levels are all properly balanced. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Disappointingly, aside from a rather tacky looking menu offering up chapter selection, the only supplement on the disc is the film's original Japanese theatrical trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately, the trailer hasn't been subtitled.
A somewhat mind bending mix of sleazy sex and dreamy, arthouse ambience might alienate those looking for something more traditional but fans of Japanese erotic cinema of the seventies will definitely appreciate what Tatsumi Kumashiro has done with Twisted Path Of Love. Kino's DVD is very light on extras, unfortunately, but it looks and sounds fairly good and comes recommended to anyone able to appreciate the less conventional aspects of its content. It's a pretty odd film, but so too is it an interesting one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.