This essay will discuss Eros Eterna (1977), one of the lesser-known films of the Japanese director Wakamatsu Kōji, arguing that it is a neglected yet layered work that demands reassessment within not only Wakamatsu’s career and oeuvre but also the entire canon of the New Wave and 1970s counterculture.
I will assert that the film should be interpreted less on its own merits, which are artistically mixed, and rather through certain sociocultural contexts: the woman-as-salvation trope and general fixation on maternal figures in traditional Japanese Buddhist iconography as well as in post-war Japan; the 1970s in Japan, particularly the trauma of failed radical social movements; and the depiction and role women in “pink film” (softcore pornography) and underground or independent cinema as part of a discourse of anti-state subversion.
Wakamatsu is today regarded as a major artist of Japanese post-war cinema and the New Wave. His work is the subject of several books in English and Japanese, and regular retrospectives. Pink film is likewise garnering serious critical attention from scholars at home and abroad. That being said, Eros Eterna is an overlooked work from Wakamatsu’s liminal mid-career that nonetheless reveals many things about its maker and period. This is in spite of its availability on DVD in Japan since 2016, which suggests that Wakamatsu Productions wants it cemented as part of the late director’s legacy. The online streaming service Mubi, known for its cineaste programming, describes it as “one of his [Wakamatsu’s] most critically esteemed films”.(1) However, it merits only the briefest of entries in the two most comprehensive surveys of pink cinema in English (Abé 2014, Sharp 2008). Indeed, aside from two 1977 texts by Hiraoka Masaaki (reprinted in Hiraoka 2007, 2008), one of which was originally included in a pamphlet about the film put out by its distributor at the time of release, it has engendered relatively scant criticism or scholarship even in Japanese, and hardly receives a mention in the major Japanese-language volume published on Wakamatsu (Yomota and Hirasawa 2013).
Eros Eterna was a co-production between Wakamatsu’s own production company and Art Theatre Guild of Japan (ATG), which was a formidable presence in the independent and underground cinema scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Though, as discussed later, Eros Eterna is generally classified as a pink film, the 90-minute colour feature loosely crosses the borders between sexploitation and art-house auteur cinema, much like Wakamatsu’s previous collaboration with ATG, Ecstasy of the Angels (1972). The film centres on a female protagonist, identified in the screenplay only as a “nun” (bikuni), who appears to be immortal and forever youthful. Played by Matsuda Eiko, the nun is a kind of saviour and mother figure for the other characters, especially the men, though her background and status are left ambiguous. Is she really a nun? How old is she? Is she, as is rumoured, a modern-day Yao Bikuni?
This latter figure is a well-known folk legend in Japan, the “eight-hundred-year-old Buddhist nun” (yao bikuni or happyaku-bikuni), and particularly associated with the Wakasa region in Fukui, where the film was shot. In fact, the shrines and temples shown in the film are those linked to the story of this old tale, which involves a fisherman who finds a mermaid and serves the meat to his dinner guests. They are warned not to eat their portions, though one man accidentally lets his young daughter eat it when he returns home. As a result, she remains forever white-faced and young, and lives for eight centuries as a nun.
Wakamatsu’s film is ostensibly set in the contemporary period, but other than a few glimpses of vehicles and, as discussed later, the presence of a nuclear power plant in the background, the setting could almost be timeless, not least because the two main female characters wear religious robes for most of their scenes. (Moreover, none of the characters are named in the film or script.)
The nun begins with a prayer pledging to suffer and repay the debt of her crime of eating the flesh of the mermaid and betraying the sea god Ryūjin as well as the god Hoori, who is an ancestor of the legendary first emperor Jimmu, who stole the mermaid from Ryūjin. “Unless the masses are led to enlightenment, this crime of eating the mermaid will not disappear.” She has an almost mystical power over a series of men, experiencing sexual encounters with them in turn: an elderly Okinawan hibakusha atom bomb victim; an Ainu criminal; a radical leftist bomber; a rich middle-aged man with money and influence in the area, who preys on vulnerable women. She “saves” the men through sex – twice, however, as rape – and gives her body and finally her life when killed by the rich man.
A parallel subplot involves a shrine maiden and her boyfriend. The former is a virgin and frightened of sex and her future, as she confides to the nun, surrounded by male lust and her weakness as a woman. In between trying to seduce the girl, the boy is determined to go to a good university and then get a job at a leading company: in other words, become an exemplary member of the middle-class, white-collar male society that became so prominent in the 1970s. But he instead becomes obsessed with the nun, peeping on her sex sessions with other men. She seems to tempt him away from the bourgeois and conventional path of life towards something pure and erotic. The boy has sex with the maiden in the nun’s hut on the beach, in lieu of intercourse with the nun herself. His girlfriend submits but feels defiled and asks him to kill her during their lovemaking.
The nun, meanwhile, has been murdered on a boat by the middle-aged rich man, who wants rid of her because she knows he tried to rape a young woman. He then leads a mob in tearing down the shack where she lived. The boy puts the body of the maiden into a pyre boat and faces the sunset. He calls out into the majestic red light, summoning the nun back from the dead. In a spectacular final sequence, the sacrifices of the two women’s deaths seems to merge into a resurrection as the nun appears out of the water and slowly embraces the boy, disrobing in a flood of red light.
Contexts of Buddhism
Episodically structured, Eros Eterna is not merely a modern-day retelling of the Yao Bikuni legend. It employs a deliberately syncretic approach to its source materials, conflating a number of supernatural tropes and myths in its imagery and opening epigraphs: mermaids; Ryūjin and his daughter, Toyotama-hime; the Yao Bikuni; and Kannon. This latter is particularly emphatic in the original Japanese title, Seibo Kannon Daibosatsu, which literally translates as “Holy Mother Kannon Bodhisattva”.(2) Kannon (Avalokiteśvara or Guanyin) is a goddess of mercy in the Buddhist pantheon and a type of Bodhisattva – someone who can reach nirvana but delays their arrival in order to help relieve the suffering of others. In Japan, Kannon, or Kannon-sama, is “a compassionate saviour who is one of the most beloved deities in Buddhism” (Fowler 2016: 1). Worshippers would petition Kannon to annul their sins and those of others (Ibid.: 229). Though regarded as male in canonical Buddhist literature, Kannon became gendered as female in China and then Japan (Ibid.: 253). This process is ambiguous, however, since, for example, Shōtoku Taishi was also regarded as a manifestation of Kannon (Faure 1998: 261). Over time, Kannon merged in Japan with Tara, an explicitly female and powerful Bodhisattva (Fowler 2016: 257). However, the maternal nature of Kannon also allowed her to serve as a substitute for “hidden Christians” in feudal Japan, who could disguise their icons of the Virgin Mary as a Kannon statue.
The film’s mixture of the profane (sexploitation, rape, nudity) with the sacred (salvation, reincarnation, places of worship) is hard to stomach in a Christian culture but less so in Japan, where the native Shintō faith integrated elements of the erotic (such as the Ama-no-Iwato myth). In this regard, there is a tradition in Japanese Buddhism for monks (that is, men) to believe in salvation by courtesans (that is, Kannon or Bodhisattva) (Faure 1998: 123). Buddhists were fond of stories in which Bodhisattva appear as a prostitutes or courtesan, perhaps as a way for monks to justify their own transgressions. Sex imbued the men with enlightenment and could transmute desire into deliverance (Ibid.: 43, 136, 261).(3)
The association with female promiscuity and Kannon or Bodhisattva extended to actual women, too, both at cultic centres and red-light districts (Faure 2003: 237, 385). Similarly, bikuni nuns were linked with a fertility cult and motherhood, paradoxically as they were women and meant to be symbols of purity and, thus, sexless and without maternity (like Gautama’s mother).(4) The nuns were hybrid figures, mediating between local Shintō or folk culture and Buddhism. Famously the nuns of Kumano travelled Japan during the Middle Ages as proselytising prostitutes. Whereas historically nuns were often widows, bikuni also became known as entertainers, as “singing nuns” – and another type of wandering woman like courtesans (yūjo), mediums (miko) and puppeteers, and, ultimately, bikuni came to designate a type of prostitute in the Edo period (Ibid.: 250, 251). As Faure notes specifically of the Yao Bikuni legend, “despite the Buddhist connotations of her name, [Yao Bikuni] seems to be a typical shamanistic figure, and her image must have influenced that of the Kumano bikuni” (Ibid.: 254). Wakamatsu’s film is deftly tapping into this heritage – that the courtesan, shamaness and Bodhisattva were often interrelated.
Wakamatsu is building on not only an established tradition of the compassionate Kannon in Japanese culture that Japanese viewers would know and understand implicitly, but also a precedent within Japanese cinema. As Linda C. Ehrlich writes, “the figure of the Kannon-sama, and scenes of compassion, in a select group of Japanese films are indications that chaos will be transformed into a higher integration of spirit” (2018: 13). But in Wakamatsu’s work, is the Kannon another such portrayal of compassion as a “guiding light” and a “return to one’s full humanity”? In some respects, this holds true but, as shall will be argued, the Kannon figure this time is erotic and sex is central to the process of healing in the face of social persecution and oppression.(5)
The water and coastal setting in the film is another Buddhist reference. The choice of Fukui is determined by the nuclear power industry, as will be discussed, and the Yao Bikuni legend, but this gains another layer of nuance when we consider religion. Here the ocean is the Sea of Japan along the rugged northern coast known for its proximity to the Korean Peninsula and suicides. But the Pure Land in Buddhism is conventionally regarded as lying in the west.(6) The film’s portrayal of a life-giving force in the Sea of Japan is novel and suggests an urge towards a new, undiscovered energy. (In general, coasts and shorelines are important in Buddhism as liminal places between worlds, such as the Higan rites that reference the Sanzu River separating the living and the dead.)
The ocean is, of course, feminine and another symbol of motherhood – one that provides both life and death in the film. Other images of water abound, including a scene in which the nun performs the waterfall purification rite of misogi. In Japanese culture, water is a cleansing element but also sexual – as apparent in the word nureba (“wet place”), meaning a sex scene. The finale, with the resurrected nun emerging from the sea, cements the water imagery as both positive and erotic, possibly the sunlight also alluding to Amaterasu, the sun goddess of Shintō. In this way, the film builds up a web of primitive tropes related to women and mothers in religion, nature, and legends.
This engagement with primitivist, maternal tropes is not unique, however, and was part of a post-war lineage that dealt with imagery of the mother as a nation-state analogue (after all, nations are generally anthropomorphised as feminine). This unfolded across literature and the underground arts, developed by the likes of literary critic Etō Jun and, perhaps most notably, the playwright and film-maker Terayama Shūji. The latter had a problematic relationship with his own mother, which seemed to manifest in his work, craving the mutual dependence (amae) that would customarily come from a mother while his had been absent. As Sorgenfrei has argued, Terayama is part of a matricentric genealogy in Japanese literature that harks back to a pre-Meiji time when women and female sexuality had not yet been divorced from their roles as wives and mothers. Likewise, Terayama’s films and plays ran almost parallel with an obsession in the yellow press with mother-son incest in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Sorgenfrei 2005: 59, 60, 65, 66).
In 1974, Shinoda Masahiro had made a surreal and erotic film for ATG called Himiko, dealing with the semi-mythical shamaness-queen of ancient Japan. Perhaps most overtly relevant in the context of Eros Eterna is the book that Hiraoka Masaaki, a critic with links to Wakamatsu’s circle, wrote in 1979 (and then subsequently revised and expanded in later editions), explaining the appeal of music idol Yamaguchi Momoe by likening her to a Bodhisattva. (Hiraoka also borrowed the Bodhisattva trope, as playfully as always, to discuss Adachi’s Schoolgirl Guerrillas in a text published in the pamphlet for the ATG venue, Scorpio, where it was screened.) Naturally the modest length of this essay precludes a detailed discussion of this diverse discourse, but it is important to realise that Wakamatsu’s film forms part of an established thematic precedent in this regard.
All this might suggest a certain “Japanese timelessness” about the film, but that is very much not the case. Rather, it is thoroughly rooted in the 1970s through topical references that are both direct and oblique. The frequent sightings of the nuclear power plant are particularly conspicuous and place the film very much in its decade. Atomic power had only just arrived in Japan; Fukui was the site of the Mihama plant, the country’s first commercially working reactor that went into operation in 1970. The plot device of the doomed leftist bomber who intends to sabotage the plant before he is stopped by locals and his family is especially prescient, since there was little anti-nuclear rhetoric at the time from the Left (unlike today, when the issue dominates the discourse). But these plants lurked in the background of the 1970s, a symbol of Japan’s modernisation but also its exploitation of rural regions for the growth of the urban centres.
The themes of salvation and healing are even more apt if we consider that Wakamatsu made the film in the wake of the traumas of 1972, when the Left in Japan was still reeling from the United Red Army (Rengō Sekigun) purge that became known in February and then the Lod Airport massacre carried out by three Japanese men in May. Wakamatsu had personal connections to both incidents, knowing one of the victims of the URA killings and also having met and advised Okamoto Kōzō, the sole survivor of the commandos who attacked the Israeli airport, before his departure. Wakamatsu was by now involved with the Palestinian movement, albeit not as heavily as his colleague Adachi Masao, and had made trips to the Middle East.
Even the inclusion of an Ainu (indigenous Japanese) character is not a casual choice; he is positioned as a kind of political figure, intent on raping the nun at first because she is a wajin (Japanese). The 1970s was a decade that witnessed several violent incidents related to Ainu causes in the north of Japan, though almost entirely carried out by sympathetic left-wing Japanese activists. Adachi had connections to this discourse – and later a warrant was issued for his arrest over a minor sabotage incident – and Ainu discourse was published in the monthly journal Film Criticism (Eiga Hihyō), which was started by Adachi, Hiraoka, Matsuda Masao, Sasaki Mamoru and others in the early 1970s. Finally, one of the minor characters is apparently a member of the Buraku caste, whose rights movement picked up pace in the 1970s with occasional violent incidents from militant activists and supporters.
Indeed, Hirasawa frames the film as part of a lineage of “extremist cinema” from the late 1960s onwards, including films about the United Red Army (Hirasawa 2001: 190–91). The savvy topicality, which is probably the influence of screenwriter of Sasaki Mamoru, is present to such an extent that ATG even highlighted it in a manga page in a magazine-style pamphlet accompanying the release (Art Theatre Guild of Japan 1977: 20).(7) While some of the engagement with timely social issues is crude and superficial, or even exploitative, the film clearly forms an extension of what Furuhata calls Wakamatsu’s “cinema of actuality” that is associated with his late 1960s and early 1970s output (Furuhata 2013).
At the time, though, that aspect of his work seemed finished. This late 1970s period was a transitional one for the director. Eros Eterna was the first Wakamatsu Productions film for several years, as Wakamatsu had increasingly been taking paid gigs for other production companies. He was an incredibly prolific filmmaker – Eros Eterna was his 75th feature – but had made his best work with certain collaborators like Adachi, Okishima Isao and Yamatoya Atsushi. By the mid-1970s, all these key partners had moved onto fresh pastures for various reasons, hence Wakamatsu’s use of Sasaki for a script for the first time. However, this also affects the result. Unlike his edgier, politically ambivalent films, especially the sequence of sexploitation works made with Adachi about revolutionary activism from 1969 to 1972, the film is more abstract and fable-like. The absence of black humour that was a staple of an Adachi screenplay is notable.(8) As such, Eros Eterna is the last important film, I argue, Wakamatsu directed for some time. Without his screenwriters, he was all at sea and his output declined. He even abandoned pink cinema in the 1980s, though would return to it in the 2000s when his career revived, most notably following his mammoth docudrama about the URA.
As Pink Cinema
It is important to frame any discussion of Eros Eterna within its ostensible genre: pink film. It is arguably not a conventional pink film, despite the gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, not least because ATG gave it a budget far greater than most “eroductions” and its themes and style are more like an art film. Pink cinema emerged in the 1960s as the major studio system went into decline, swiftly proving a runaway commercial success. Artistically, too, the pink genre allowed a lot more freedom and attracted some of the best talent from student, underground, and independent cinema. According to the critic and filmmaker Donald Richie, who was one of the first westerners to write seriously about sexploitation, a typical pink film was 70 minutes long and with some sort of sex scene at regular intervals (Richie 1973: 335). There were commonly used motifs and plot devices, such as bar hostesses or female hikers. Richie also identified sexual violence as a central trope. Indeed, this has proven repellent for many non-Japanese critics in the past (and still today), including even Wakamatsu’s feted entries in the genre (Desser 1988: 101; Burch 1979: 351–2). In fact, most of the early scholarship or writing about Wakamatsu’s films is unconvinced, if not downright condemnatory of its torture and bourgeois politics. Today, however, his work is championed, including by female critics and taken seriously as part of a subversive blurring of sexploitation and art in the best of pink film – and Eros Eterna is emblematic in this regard.
Wakamatsu is both artist and pornographer. Which role takes precedence likely depends on the position of an audience. In addition, the filtering of his legacy by only releasing a small fraction of his output on DVD or at screenings presents an unbalanced view that conveniently ignores a lot of the more conventional pink films he made. (Personally I do not think this distracts from his merits per se; rather the quality becomes even more impressive when we consider the flotsam and jetsam the director was making to keep his company afloat economically.)
Nonetheless, no matter how respected a director today, the choice to continue making pink films is problematic for us when it was a genre so generally demeaning to its female characters. Wakamatsu and Adachi have claimed that they are rather empowering women because these characters always win in the end, even though they suffer rape and degradation along the way (Adachi 2003: 304). Female scholars have also supported this kind of assertion to a certain extent, that violence and sex are portrayed as intricately connected (Hayashi 2013: 92–3).(9) Indeed, Hayashi specifically cites Eros Eterna in regard to the misogyny of Wakamatsu’s work, suggesting that “rape is used as a process of purification for the rapist” (Hayashi 2014: 271). Bringing us back to our initial framing of the film, Saitō argues that the demeaned women represented “unclean” Buddhist female ideals who are the saviours of men, though she is discussing the earlier Adachi-Wakamatsu collaborations (Saitō 2003: 164–5).
Apologists might attempt to defend the depiction of women in pink film with the excuse that it is simply “dated” or obeying the trappings of its genre. That may well be true in part, though the depiction of rape and salvation through sex troubles in our #MeToo age. After all, why can’t the men just save themselves? Eros Eterna is arguably presenting women as a very positive life force: the woman’s body is here a medium for resurrection and healing of men. The question, then, is whether or not this allows us to get beyond the hindrances of pink cinema that still weigh it down and whether this also helps audiences overcome the traumas of the 1970s fallout from the end of the period of politics. This is much harder to answer. Like the monks who justified their own sins with tales of deliverance through Bodhisattva encounters, is Wakamatsu a male artist who here simply draws on a sexist metaphor to deal with his own problems?
The Erotic as Counterculture
This idea of woman as a “medium” speaks to a broader tendency to use women and nudity for the purposes of subversion in the 1960s and 1970s. The choice of “eros” in the title is quite deliberate, indicating that this is a film that is not simply pink and erotic, but associated with rebellion and counterculture, and the transgression of moral codes. Starting his career in the Yakuza before he became a director, Wakamatsu was famously anti-authoritarian and driven by his hatred of the police (Wakamatsu 1968: 32–4; Yomota, Hirasawa, Wakamatsu 2013: 235). The female body, in this respect, served as a bridge for addressing actuality and rebellion (Hiraoka 1977a: 150).
As such, Eros Eterna feels very much part of this continuing strain of cinema and counterculture that employed the erotic to challenge the mainstream and authority. However, given the imminent decline in both Wakamatsu and ATG’s trajectories, it feels almost like the “last gasp” of the counterculture movement. The movement is troublingly misogynistic, though. The subsequent career of the star of Eros Eterna, Matsuda Eiko, is a case in point. She also famously played Abe Sada in Ōshima Nagisa’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976), which Wakamatsu produced – a film much praised for its political message, despite the controversy over its unsimulated sex scenes. Hailing from Terayama’s prestigious theatre troupe, Matsuda found herself unable to escape the reputation of the Ōshima film and her career dried up while her male co-star’s was unaffected. She went into exile in Europe, where Richie met her and ruefully noted the waste of her talents that almost parallels Abe’s own final retreat to a nunnery (Richie 1996: 36–8). Hiraoka, too, in both his essays on the film published at the time makes throwaway references to Matsuda’s nudity and “sex appeal” (Hiraoka 1977a: 153; Hiraoka 1977b: 197).
ATG produced several such erotic art films during this time, not least Wakamatsu’s Ecstasy of the Angels and Mandala (1971) by Akio Jissōji (part of a trilogy of Buddhist-influenced erotic films). The dominance of men in the industry, though putatively outside the mainstream, is evident, which problematises the use of women (and their bodies) to make a culturally or socially subversive point politically or artistically in pink and underground cinema.(10)
In post-war Japan, the boundaries of obscenity were continually tested, not only in cinema but also in photography (such as the book The Red Balloon, or Night of the She-Wolf, which involved Hiraoka, in the early 1960s) and literature (not least the trials resulting from the publications of writings by D.H. Lawrence, de Sade, and Takahashi Tetsu). In cinema, pink films were already subject to prosecution in the 1960s, but the issue became particularly salient in the 1970s with the obscenity trial related to several pink films in the Roman Porno series, which was produced by Nikkatsu – one of the major studios, which had turned to pink cinema to survive. The extraordinary case also included among the defendants officials from the Japanese film regulator Eirin (Cather 2014: 131–5).
Though it has none of the verve of the Adachi collaborations, Eros Eterna should ultimately be seen as another example of Wakamatsu’s inherently anti-authoritarian approach: women and sex as defying the state, the rich and powerful, and oppression, while also providing succour for the poor and weak (Hirasawa 2013: 185–6). Such a reading makes it easy to pair with the near-contemporary In the Realm of the Senses (the scene in Eros Eterna of a strangling during sex almost feels like a conscious reference to how Abe Sada killed her lover). Though not as complex or sophisticated as the Ōshima work, which offsets a self-destructive sexual relationship between a male master and female servant against Japan’s rising pre-war militarism, Eros Eterna should also be seen as similarly opposed to the Establishment and channelling aspects of counterculture and actuality – while simultaneously managing to feel, in part, timeless.
As I have argued, it exists within a mesh of sociocultural contexts related to Wakamatsu’s career, the situation in the 1970s, pink film, women in Buddhism, motherhood in post-war Japanese culture, and the sometimes contentious use of women and nudity to challenge social mores and authority through counterculture and the avant-garde.
The final reincarnation scene is a profession of faith in the cyclical return of healing through carnal embrace with the next generation of men at a time when salvation was much needed in Japan: as the nun’s opening prayer declares, she takes on the suffering of those who had betrayed Ryūjin – by implication, all of the Japanese, given the mythological link of Hoori to the imperial line. The slow embrace of the boy and the resurrected nun in the transcendental glow of the setting sun suggests hope and an alternative future for the boy (and Japan) through their sexual union.
Bibliography and References
Adachi, Masao, Eiga/kakumei (Cinema/Revolution), Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2003.
Art Theatre Guild of Japan, Āto Shiatā 126 (Art Theatre #126), 1977.
Cather, Kirsten, “Policing the Pinks”, in Abé Mark Nornes (ed.), The Pink Book: The Japanese Eroduction and its Contexts, Kinema Club, 2014.
Burch, Noël, To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema, Annette Michelson (ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.
Desser, David, Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave Cinema, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
Ehrlich, Linda C., “Kannon-sama and the Spirit of Compassion in Japanese Cinema”, in Lorenzo J. Torres Hortelano (ed.), Dialectics of the Goddess in Japanese Audiovisual Culture, Lanham: Lexington Books, 2018.
Faure, Bernard, The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1998.
—————The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity, and Gender, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Fowler, Sherry D., Accounts and Images of Six Kannon in Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016.
Furuhata, Yuriko, Cinema of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde Filmmaking in the Season of Image Politics, Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.
Hayashi, Sharon, “Shikyū e no kaiki: Rokujū-nendai-chūki wakamatsu puro sakuhin ni okeru seiji to sei” (Return to the Womb: Politics and Sexuality in Mid-1960s Wakamatsu Productions Films), in Yomota Inuhiko and Hirasawa Gō (eds.), Wakamatsu Kōji: Hankenryoku no shōzō (Kōji Wakamatsu: An Anti-Authoritarian Portrait), Tokyo: Sakuhinsha, 2013 (expanded edition, first published in 2007).
—————“Marquis de Sade Goes to Tokyo”, in The Pink Book.
Hiraoka, Masaaki, “Yae bikuni no saisei – Shōnen ga fushūsha ni kaeru koto no anji de aru – Wakamatsu Kōji ‘Seibo Kannon Daibosatsu’” (Resurrection of the Yao Bikuni: Implications of a Young Man Turning into an Avenger, Wakamatsu Kōji’s Eros Eterna) (1977), in Angura kikansetsu: Yami no hyōgensha retsuden (Theses on the Institution of the Underground: Biographies of Artists of the Dark), Tokyo: Magazine Five, 2007.
—————“Wakamatsu Kōji futatabi – ‘Seibo Kannon Daibosatsu’” (Once Again Wakamatsu Kōji: Eros Eterna) (1977), Wakamatsu puro, yoru no sanjūshi (Wakamatsu Productions: Three Musketeers of the Night), Tokyo: Aiikusha, 2008.
Hirasawa, Gō, “Radikarizumu no keizoku: 1970-nendai ikō ni okeru Wakamatsu Kōji-ron” (A Continuation of Radicalism: Wakamatsu Kōji Theory Post-1970s), in Wakamatsu Kōji: Hankenryoku no shōzō.
—————“‘Kagekiha’ eiga no keifu: Nihon sekigun to eiga o megutte” (The Genealogy of ‘Extremist’ Cinema: The Japanese Red Army and Film), in Abe Harumasa (ed.), Sekigun RED ARMY 1969–2001 (Red Army 1969–2001), Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2001.
Mubi, “Eros Eternal”, https://mubi.com/films/eros-eternal (accessed 18 July 2018).
Richie, Donald, “The Japanese Eroduction” (1973), in The Pink Book.
—————Public People, Private People: Portraits of Some Japanese, Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha International, 1996.
Saitō, Ayako, “Adachi eiga to feminizumu” (The Cinema of Adachi and Feminism), Jōkyō, June 2003, 164–7.
Sharp, Jasper, Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema, Godalming: Fab Press, 2008.
—————Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema, Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2011.
Sorgenfrei, Carol Fisher, Unspeakable Acts: The Avant-Garde Theatre of Terayama Shuji and Postwar Japan, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005.
Yomota, Inuhiko, Hirasawa Gō and Wakamatsu Kōji, “Wakamatsu Kōji intabyū” (Interview with Kōji Wakamatsu), in Wakamatsu Kōji: Hankenryoku no shōzō.
Wakamatsu, Kōji, “Yomihitoshirazu no uta o utau” (Singing a Song of Unknown Authorship) (1968), in Zenhatsugen (All Statements), Hirasawa Gō (ed.), Tokyo: Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 2010.
(1) https://mubi.com/films/eros-eternal (accessed 14 October 2019).
(2) I have unfortunately not been able to determine accurately when Eros Eterna was fixed as the film’s English title. It almost seems like a deliberate gesture towards Yoshida’s Eros + Massacre (1970), another ATG film, though there are alternate titles, it seems: Eros Eternal (Mubi) or The Emperor’s Mother, the Goddess of Mercy and the Great Bodhisattva (Sharp 2011: 338).
(3) Faure notes that this “sacred prostitute” trope may also have Shintō roots (Faure 2003: 252)
(4) Japanese Buddhist tradition has it that Gautama’s religious quest was motivated by his desire to save his mother and be reunited with her. Thus, the mother’s absence led to his aspiration for enlightenment (Faure 2003: 150). Likewise, though monks were associated with abandoning of their mothers and family ties, there are cases of mothers glorified as local deities. Mothers became objects of a female cult, such as the worship of Kūkai’s mother (Ibid.: 160). Faure notes that though Buddhism in medieval Japan seems to show respect for women, this does not mean their status was improved: quite the contrary, their value in society was gradually limited to procreative functions (Ibid.: 162).
(5) See Ehrlich’s chapter for a longer discussion of Kannon and Japanese cinema, though it is perhaps a further indication of the neglected status of Wakamatsu’s film that it does not merit a mention.
(6) I thank Professor Michio Hayashi for illuminating this for me. While the suicides at Tōjinbō are recently well known, the coast does have a mystical precedent, however, such as the striking Sanbutsu-ji Temple in Tottori Prefecture.
(7) The page shows caricatures of Wakamatsu and Sasaki standing behind Matsuda, all knee-deep in seawater, while above them float pieces of paper with images from the film all titled “1977 problems of Japan”; in the background lurks the power plant.
(8) Hiraoka says the film shows Sasaki’s “conceptualism” (Hiraoka 1977a: 150). He also notes, in an essay originally published in the official ATG magazine for the film, the difference in style between Sasaki and Adachi’s scripts (Hiraoka 1977b: 196). Sasaki actually produced a very interesting output, dabbling in experimental and art house cinema alongside a successful career as a writer for mainstream TV shows.
(9) The interrelation of the erotic and violence was also noted by male commentators (Hiraoka 1977b: 194).
(10) To be fair, In the Realm of the Senses also included male nudity and it was the inclusion of an erect phallus that was probably most controversial when it was released, not only in Japan – where showing pubic hair is prohibited – but around the world.