He gives time to the prostitutes’ banter, fears, their collective sensibility, their louche deportment, play, despair, and gossipy pleasure in their moments of rest, before the columns of soldiers are marched in to begin the exhausting business of assembly-line rutting.At first, the girls doubt it when they’re told they’ll all find sweethearts amongst the soldiers—“How will we find the time?Where the title might make one assume this is to be a realistic study in a woman’s move into the oldest profession in a style familiar from Mizoguchi’s films, Suzuki introduces his anti-heroine Harumi (Yumiko Nogawa) as already long immersed in the life, and with her carnal intensity and deeply asocial streak, in some ways utterly suited to it.(1964), where his period heroes aspired to flee Japan for the colonies in Manchuria but were constantly stymied by forces far larger than themselves.But her path to this fulfilment is made difficult by the fact that Mikami, though attracted to Harumi, is slavishly indoctrinated by the militarist ethos and truly tortured by the thought of transgressing his role.Harumi’s determination to gain revenge over Narita is illustrated with bravura as she imagines him coming upon herself and Mikami in an embrace: he turns into a photograph, and is torn to pieces.A product of the time when he was still part of Nikkatsu and yet also clearly a renegade, is both a lacerating study of historical military and sexual insanity, and a monument to Suzuki’s own outsider bravado as a filmmaker and an relentless, ferocious commentator on his society.Breaking momentarily free from his allotted role at the studio, Suzuki inverts the usual focus of the genre films he made, with the stoic, loner action heroes he was already aggressively disassembling, to look at a determined, unruly, but ultimately self-destructive heroine and make a sustained assault on the evils of Japan’s recent past.
Trucks are blown to pieces by charging partisans on horseback, and soldiers crowd around a dead fellow, whose body is slung into the back of another truck, where it bobs pathetically on the continued journey.
The declaration of Harumi’s status and profession immediately indicts her not as a meek or pathetic victim but as someone who will embrace with increasing volatility her role as a transgressor, a kind of guerrilla warrior against the entrapping paradigms of male dominance and military hierarchy.
Her aggression is precisely envisioned in the very next shot: a knife hacks into frame, bright against the surrounding darkness. The third shot is split, one side presenting a stylised tavern, represented as a table and chairs surrounded by epic darkness, and Harumi, wielding the knife, threatens her lover’s bride, telling her to go back to Japan, whilst the other side of the frame contains the wedding photo for the couple, emblem of the formal ties and powers that now weigh against Harumi.
Suzuki makes a brutal jump cut then to the most innocuous of sights: the hinterlands into which Harumi travels with two other prostitutes recruited to serve at brothels in the frontier town of Buken.
The crudity of the garrison soldiers is shocking to her fellows, but attractive to Harumi, who wants to lose herself in a delirium of sex, and the endless queue of virile, sex-starved soldiers at the town provides just what she wants.