While the proceeding passage is something of a digression from the aims of this paper, I feel it necessary to understand the circumstances which lead to this era of Wakamatsu’s directorial career so that the changes in his style and output can be placed in a context of the conditions he was ‘forced’ to work with.
After the closing of his own production company, Wakamatsu returned to making cheap exploitation films for the companies, mainly Shintoho Studios, that would give him work. With no input in the scriptwriting and little interest in the subject matter it is clear that these films were mostly being made to ‘pay the bills’, the only exception being the ATG produced SACRED MOTHER KANNON (Japan, 1977), which was an allegorical tale of a woman who eats the flesh of a mermaid and gains immortality, living in a cave and giving her body to a succession of pilgrims who come to worship her. Described as ‘a textbook example for the use of metaphor and symbolism in contemporary cinema’ (Weisser & Mihara, 1998, p358), it would seem that, when given the opportunity, Wakamatsu was capable of directing films that could rival the artistic heights he had reached in the preceding era of his career. Unfortunately the film is unavailable for viewing, so any further analysis would be purely hypothetical. It is also worth noting that during this period he helped produce Nagisa Oshima’s IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (Japan, 1976), probably the best known Japanese sex film in the west.
Still from TORTURE CHRONICLES :100 YEARS
Despite these worthy additions to his body of work, it has to be said that the bulk of the films Wakamatsu directed in this period were purely exploitational, with titles like TORTURE CHRONICLES :100 YEARS (Japan, 1975) and FEMALE RAPE AND TORTURE (Japan, 1978) and plots that merely led from one scene of rape or violence to the next. On viewing, it can be noted that many of these films do contain some political elements, but as Wakamatsu did not write them and they show little resemblance to his earlier works, it is most likely that it was the political angle of his scripts that inspired the production companies to hire Wakamatsu to direct them, with only the last of the productions being worthy of attention as an Auteur work.
Produced on a miniscule budget, even by Wakamatsu’s standards, and seemingly nothing more than a series of rapes and murders from beginning to end, there is more to VIOLATION OF THIRTEEN on closer inspection than is first apparent. Most interestingly, it shows that Wakamatsu was returning to form and trying to add an overt political dimension to the skeletal ‘plot’ on his own terms through the use of Landscape theory and in retrospect the film can be seen as something of a prototype of his highly acclaimed CYCLING CHRONICLES: LANDSCAPES THE BOY SAW (Japan, 2004), with a bicycle riding protagonist pushed to violent action by the environment in which he lives.
While the scenes of murder and sexual violence are fairly unpleasant, if somewhat less explicit than similar fare being produced at the time by the larger ‘pink’ film companies, it would seem that Wakamatsu used the films ‘filler’ sections, of the boy cycling from one crime to the next, to subvert the production into something less exploitative and more politically minded than the producers would have originally intended, turning what should have been a simple ero-guro (erotic grotesque) film into a work of profound nihilism.
Landscape shot from VIOLATION OF THIRTEEN
With a discordant jazz soundtrack by renowned saxophonist Karou Abe, VIOLATION OF THIRTEEN is filled with shots of bleak industrial landscapes and when the soundtrack is not filled with screams or jazz, all that can be heard are the sounds of factories and aeroplanes coming and going from a nearby airport, creating an aural landscape similar to that of David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD (U.S.A, 1977), adding to the films depressing tone. Two of the key scenes in the film that show Wakamatsu’s underlying intent are a short sequence in which the boy stares longingly at an aeroplane departing from the airport, signifying his desire to escape not only his environment, but also the path that his life has taken and the final scene in the film in which an unknown and off-screen assailant shoots the protagonist dead, filmed in a way that suggests the surroundings themselves are responsible for the boys death, both emotionally and literally.
After this somewhat muted return to form, Wakamatsu began to move away from the production of micro-budget exploitation and started to head towards the next and final stage of his career.