Aroused by Gymnopedies Film Review

Article by Luis Vazquez

Eric Satie never imagined in his wildest dreams that his classic piece that set standards in classical music would open a film bearing his song titles name with a man masturbating in his window to a woman, her breast exposed in the yard rubbing up against the wall of his house. He leaves her hanging too. It serves as the background to every sex scene. Welcome to “Aroused by Gymnopedies.”

This film, directed by Isao Yukisada, has been seen by a few in three countries but now as part of the Japanese studio Nikkatsu’ 45th anniversary of the “roman porno” or “romantic pornography films of the 70’s and 80’s, many more were acquainted with it in this years New York Asian Film Festival.

Itsuji Itao is brilliant as the director, Shinji Furuya, in his 50’s, is doing a porno to get some cash into his bare cabinets. His problem in this act is his stars are not getting along. The male star thinks the script is garbage and the female star, Anri (Izumi Okamura) can’t get in the mood. The film is low budget and soon after his financial backers withdraw their support no thanks to his lead leaving the film. Anri gets nothing from Shinji but her robe pulled down and her breasts exposed for him to cup them alienating her as well though for an instant she is intrigued. He is definitely on the down side of his career.

His behavior comes off as juvenile as he gets his way sexually with many young females who still swoon over his fame and reputation. He is welcomed easily but does not return the favor emotionally. What’s worst is he leaves them wanting because he is not feeling them. He is sad and it’s not clear why. He is reduced to asking for money from each.

He is a pathetic man until we get some back story. His wife is in the hospital. They were in a car accident together. This news draws the sympathy of Anri, the actress who quit his film. They end up screwing in a public location until a random stranger stops near to urinate. This stops him.

He steals a piggy bank from a student, Yuka, with a rich father, who gets a black eye from her boyfriend who is also his student. She defends Shinji when Anri slaps him after hearing the news of his infidelity is thrown at him by Yuka’s boyfriend Araki during a retrospective of Shinji’s career. Araki (Kisetsu Fujiwara) chases him in the street but Shinji loses him. When he looks out from his hiding place, Yuka is there and another public messing leads to her bedroom. She is aroused by his description of her flower, her womanhood, the point of contention in the brawl at the conference. She has an orgasm without him touching her. He looks as uninterested as a student in a boring lecture.

This depressing road leads to places unwelcome and the adventures become more depraved as the film moves along. We learn that Shinji’s wife is still in the hospital and bills are unpaid. He goes to his ex-wife, Rinko, who has an persistent admirer, Mr. Homma, who had already paid her for sex once before, who can’t stop professing his desire to make love to her. When Shinji makes her aware of his problem, she accepts payment from Mr. Homma in exchange for another session but the price is high as Homma uses electric shock tools and cutting to arouse him until he enters her from behind in full view of Shinji, who suddenly collapses to the floor in realization of what he has done.

This tour is reminiscent of Burt Lancaster in “The Swimmer” as he swims a road of pools back home without realizing that he has lost it all. But in this case, Shinji knows what he has lost. He is going through the motions and does not really indulge as he leaves each encounter sadder than when he went into it. He doesn’t look for sympathy and is in self-judgmental type of purgatory.

Gymnopedies tells a excellent story of mid-life crisis for men, the slow death of loneliness and the importance of love in relationships. Not bad for a film with a porno premise.

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