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PRISON GIRL (2008)
Published by David Carter on 2015/5/24 (891 reads)
Directed by Naoyuki Tomomatsu
Review by David Carter
Released by Pink Eiga
Running Time: 61 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: Color
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Mono Japanese/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen
16:9 Enhanced: Yes
Special Features: Slideshow, interview with star
Trailer Online: Yes
There are only a handful of genres than are the exclusive domain of exploitation films. Genres like blaxploitation, Naziploitation, and even splatter horror all have made brief forays into mainstream cinema, and, surprisingly, the rape-revenge movie even had its start as a mainstream genre. Women-in-prison films have been an exploitation mainstay since they began their life back in the pre-code days. There’s just something inescapably prurient about WIP cinema; there’s no easy way to dress it up for mainstream consumption.
That doesn’t mean that all WIP films are strictly low-brow skinfests. On the contrary, there have been entries into the genre that are both intelligent and emotionally complex. A fine example of this is Pink Eiga’s latest release PRISON GIRL. PRISON GIRL has everything you’d expect from a WIP flick, but it has a surprisingly cerebral take on the standard tropes.
Ayaka (star Asami) is a rebellious prisoner being given a forced strip search by sadistic guards. Or is she? Ayaka awakes in her apartment, frightened by another appearance of the prison nightmare she’s been plagued by. A newlywed, Ayaka gave up her career after marriage and has been having problems coming to terms with life as a housewife. She seeks out help from a therapist who tells her the problem is due to dissatisfaction with her new husband. She balks at the idea and returns home with a renewed determination to make it work.
Ayaka’s peace from the nightmares is short-lived as they soon grow more intense and she increasingly has difficulty separating her dream life from reality. She accosts a pregnant woman on the streets because she resembles her cellmate from her prison fantasies. An unexpected financial strain put upon her by her husband’s incompetence causes her to retreat even deeper into her dreams and forces her to question which of her two lives is truly “real.”
PRISON GIRL deviates from the women-in-prison formula in two ways. Firstly, it tells its story from a truly female perspective rather than the standard male fantasy mode for which the genre is known. The film is more about Ayaka’s mind than her body and this helps keeps her predicament in the forefront of viewers’ minds even as the film makes its way through the standard WIP tropes. This is also the second way in which it departs from the WIP standard: the focus on the cerebral. PRISON GIRL is ultimately ambiguous with regard to Ayaka’s true reality and spotlights the comparisons between prison and what the film considers domestic slavery in the form of being a forced housewife. The film doesn’t take a hard stance against traditional Japanese values per se, but does emphasize that Ayaka is robbed of the ability to choose for herself in her marriage and therefore is no better off than if she was in prison.
Pink Eiga’s DVDs are always solid releases and PRISON GIRL is as well, containing multiple bonus features to please you pinku fans out there. It’s important to remember that pink films are ultra-low budget affairs, so don’t expect great things from the print; however I felt the graininess of the picture helped with the overall sleazy, grindhouse feel of the movie. A bit smarter and more engrossing than the average Pink Eiga offering, PRISON GIRL is a good one to pick up.
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