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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Jul 22 1998
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Blind Beast
One of 1997's great moviegoing pleasures was the Yasuzo Masumura retrospective at the Pacific Film Archive. Masumura's work -- he directed a staggering range of films, from anti-war statements to exploitation -- helped inspire the Japanese New Wave of the '60s. Now the PFA has again opened its Japanese film vault a crack and let Masumura's notorious 1969 S/M psychodrama Blind Beast sneak out for a one-night showing.

The scene -- it's virtually a one-set film -- takes place in an old warehouse, where Michio, a blind sculptor, has created a monument to his own fetish. The walls are covered with nests of arms, legs, eyes, lips, and breasts, the rest of the room filled with two soft, mountainous sculptures of female bodies in repose. Poor mama's boy Michio, a virgin who has never even eaten a meal with anyone but his mother, has only one pleasure: touch. He spends his time fondling his sculptures, when he isn't working as a masseuse as tactile research for his work. With the help of his mother, Michio kidnaps Aki, a model and actress, to use as the model for his final ecstatically "tactual" masterpiece -- a perfect female form. Things naturally go haywire. Aki falls for Michio, as the kidnapped so often do (at least in the movies). Engulfed by Michio's obsessive art and their unchecked ardor for each other, the two embark on a sexual bender, eventually turning his sculptor's tools on themselves. This bizarre, overheated setup isn't an excuse for blood and titillation, though -- it's a surprisingly serious-minded exploration of art, sex, objectification, and mothers and sons, filled with striking images, like the one of Aki, sleeping nestled between the giant soft sculpture's snowdrift-sized breasts. It's a one-of-a-kind film, not likely to be seen around here again soon.

-- Tod Booth

Blind Beast screens Wednesday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant (at College) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6; call (510) 642-1124.

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Tod Booth

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