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ZOOM IN: SEX APARTMENTS (1980)
Published by David Carter on 2014/3/10 (1054 reads)
Directed by Naosuke Kurosawa
Review by David Carter
Released by Impulse Pictures
Running Time: 68 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Mono Japanese/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.35:1
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Liner Notes
Trailer Online: No
Short Version: Giallo-inspired Nikkatsu madness
From its inception, the giallo genre has been infused with erotic overtones. Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, the film that inaugurated the genre, was set in the world of high fashion and featured beautiful models as its victims, setting the style that was to be followed in all successive entries. Bava’s films would serve as a template for those of Dario Argento, whose contributions to giallo cinema in the seventies have yet to be equaled. Bava and Argento have had homage paid to their works countless times, and it is nearly impossible to view a giallo without comparing to the works of the two masters. Director Naosuke Kurosawa didn’t try to hide the influence of Argento on his 1980 film ZOOM IN: SEX APARTMENTS, a crazed whodunit from the always unique Nikkatsu that is now available on DVD courtesy of Impulse Pictures.
Pretty housewife Saeko is helping her husband prepare for a trip. A cyclist, he’ll be gone for about a week to compete in a race. He’s reluctant to leave his young wife, but Saeko welcomes the break from married life and wastes little time setting out to visit an old friend. Her route takes her through a rough part of town and she’s brutally attacked by a man wearing a black mask and gloves. When she arrives at the apartment of her friend, Takayama, she says nothing of the incident and resumes her love affair with him. Takayama, a piano tuner, left Saeko years ago in a sudden move to America and his return has rekindled her unresolved feelings for him.
The next morning Saeko is shocked to learn that a woman from her apartment was also attacked but with a vastly different outcome. The poor woman was burned alive by her attacker and her body was left in a public place. Saeko is deeply unsettled by the knowledge that she probably encountered the killer and, in her husband’s absence, begins spending more time with Takayama. The murders/burnings continue and Saeko starts to realize that Takayama is not the same man she knew before. There’s something dark in his demeanor and his box of strange, sharp piano tuning tools makes her suspect that he might be the masked killer. Torn between love and fear, Saeko is faced with a tough decision that will change – or end – her life.
ZOOM IN plays up its Argento influences throughout, making it a fun film with which to play “spot the reference.” Kurosawa isn’t just haphazardly throwing things in without context, however. A nod to DEEP RED is a significant plot point in the film, but other allusions are more subtle and simply take inspiration from Argento’s stylistic tendencies. This is still a Nikkatsu film, so expect things to go one step beyond normal. Many facets of the film (namely the burnings) actually prefigure the slasher films of the eighties, putting ZOOM IN ahead of the curve. The giallo aspects are coupled with a more traditional “roman porno” plot of a housewife’s affair, and Kurosawa blends the two genres seamlessly, making a film that could fit comfortably in either.
ZOOM IN is more accomplished than the average Nikkatsu offering in terms of art direction and cinematography, and Impulse Pictures’ DVD does a great job translating those aspects. Again, it’s important to remember that Nikkatsu’s erotic films were essentially “disposable cinema,” so the fact that viewable prints of the films are available is something of an accomplishment. Like all giallo films, ZOOM IN ends with a twist that the viewer won’t see coming. Horror fans, in particular, will want to watch until the ending – ZOOM IN’s climactic scene is so shocking that it is a must-see.
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