Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974

Miyuki Takeda in Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 [Gokushiteki erosu: Renka 1974] (dir. Kazuo Hara, 1974).

The intensity of some films makes one not only overlook their technical limitations, but embrace them as essential to its vision. Throughout most of Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974, which was shot on bargain-basement home equipment, the voice synch isn't even close enough to be considered synch, and whole scenes, including a crucial one, are entirely out of focus. It's impossible to ignore these distractions--and they are distractions. There's no way to construe them as intentional, or even as accidental enhancements, in any direct aesthetic sense. But what one is aware of is the length to which one is willing to go to overlook the glitches, as though peering out a hotel room window at night, willing away the darkness and the noise of the traffic, voyeuristically trying to make out what's going on in the room across the street. The obstructions are not a means of invention for the artist, but a sacrifice the viewer is willing to make--and having made that sacrifice, our involvement is deeper.

Miyuki Takeda, the subject of Kazuo Hara's film (and of his own romantic obsession), is anamorphically chimeric: she is complex, and brutally simple; passionate, and cold; nurturing, and hard; sympathetic, and repellent; radically feminist, and thoroughly colonized by patriarchal ideology; quixotic, and realist to the point of cynicism. That is, she is real in a way that can never be fully captured by fiction. She drives Hara to tears on camera, and it's irrelevant whether we think she is cruel, or he is a sap, or both, or neither. "Character" dissolves into medium, and morality is transformed into memory. We feel the death that fills in the space behind each human experience like curtains of black ink, and that death sobers us out of judgment.

The streets and ports of seventies Okinawa are correlatives to both Takeda's toughness and Hara's sentiment. They are never picturesque, never lyrical, even in a noirish sense. They are just fleeting splashes of the historical Real, left as stains on film. Similarly, the two live births that are the culmination of the documentary defy any habitually conditioned emotional response. Takeda's relationship to children is somehow central to the film's "dramatic" movement, but by the end, all that can happen within that structureless structure is an overflowing or outpouring, a release of new life that is neither particularly hopeful nor particularly fatalistic. The final images of Takeda soaking in a tub full of babies arrest whatever prejudicial impulses might still be left flickering in the viewer's brain, and replace them with a simultaneously frightening and exhilarating readiness to see what new meanings can be forged there.