Japan | 1980
Directed by Naosuke Kurosawa
Erina Miyai
Youko Azusa
Yuuko Ohzaki
| 68 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC)
Impulse Pictures
Hold your mouse pointer over an image for a pop-up caption
Review by
Doug Red

Erotic desire knows no bounds. The "Pink" cinema of Japan created a number of very specific and fetish-ridden films designed to titillate their intended audiences with unusual stories of sexual explorations that reach beyond the furthest outposts of the human psyche. After viewing Eros School: Feels So Good and Debauchery, it seemed like every unconventional act and lewd notion had been already been entertained, and the world was a smaller place for it. Little did I know that the strange world of Zoom In: Sex Apartments was waiting just around the corner, ready to light my intellectual genitals on fire in a perverse show of carnality and delirium.
    Director Naosuke Kurosawa's 1980 magnum opus relates the story of Saeko (played by limber and ready for anything minx Erina Miyai), a normal housewife whose clueless husband has no erotic imagination and thus she forces him to wear a condom during their lovemaking (signifying his pedantic lust and her lack of heat with his appendage). Hubby soon takes off for a long trip overseas, so Saeko decides to take a bike trip delivering a painting through what appears to be the home of Mad Max a ruined city scape where large abandoned structures stand. Her trip ends prematurely when a black gloved, trench-coat wearing, masked fiend knocks her bike over with a rock. Toying with her by threatening her face with a strange sharp instrument, he eventually settles for taking her forcefully from behind in the middle of the apocalyptic landscape. Left with her panties around her ankles, Saeko completes her trip to what turns out to be her former boyfriend's apartment, Tayaka, a piano tuner. She is still seeing him on the side, an old flame who delivers the goods sexually with enthusiastic lovemaking and he is not forced to wear a condom. They are far from the only players living in the Kimbougahara Apartment Building (a.k.a. Sex Apartments), though. It turns out that Saeko's friendly neighborhood rapist is actually a sadistic killer who captures women, commits violent sexual acts against their personage, and ends the assault by turning their genitals into pyrotechnics, his personal July Fourth. In a normal film about a serial killer, the so-called Pube Burner would be a feared monster and a figure of evil, but that is not the case for Zoom In. Most of the men see him as something of a folk hero, and they are shown in one scene talking on the street about his exploits in glowing terms. Other characters include Saeko's friend Sachi, a hot MILF who is able to commiserate with Saeko about her relationship with her husband and her lover, as well as taking the time to be her bisexual playmate. The final main player is a sweet young thing who I call 'Dirty Trash Woman'. While squatting in an alleyway with no pants on, she witnesses the Pube Burner killing a victim by forced incineration. Dirty Trash Woman gets so engrossed she rips open a trash bag and starts eating the contents, all while flying her bare ass in the wind. After seeing this act of burning love, this street hussy falls fast in love and rides off on her tricycle (!) to track down the noted stud Pube Burner to become his next victim. In the meantime, Saeko notices that her boy toy Tayaka has a weird tool with a pointy end just like her rapist, who accidentally dropped it during her assault. How these competing storylines intersect is the stuff of cult film legend.
    Zoom In: Sex Apartments is like a Pink film cross-pollinated with a high percentage of its DNA inherited from the giallo genre, and then directed by David Lynch. Defying rational logic, the film exists like some kind of dream from which the characters never fully waken. The Pube Burner is definitely shown to be a rapist and murderer, but the heroine finds herself becoming more and more attracted to him and the pleasure she felt at her assault. Dirty Trash Woman becomes a victim wannabe who will do anything to ensure she becomes the next victim, where violation and death is her nirvana and success in life. The imagery of fire is never far away, from the small wildfires present with no explanation when Saeko is first assaulted, to a scene later on when a woman is furiously pleasuring herself and in doing so is leaves a trail of scintillating flame with every orgasm, and even a five-foot blazing inferno erupting out of the most private of parts. In Zoom In, fire represents sexual fulfillment, and the more fire you experience, the higher your pleasure is. Grand Guignol-tinged visions of death are seen throughout, from a victim tied to a jungle gym with her charbroiled vagina in the air, to scenes of lovemaking in the realm of hell amidst the punishing heat, a father chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" around his daughter's corpse and beating a drum (who keeps returning in other scenes and locations), and a pleasant verbal exchange between neighbors that ends in spontaneous human combustion. The giallo aspects of the film are homages to the genre as expressed through Dario Argento's films like Deep Red and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage; a black-gloved killer, strange instruments used to torture and kill, artfully displayed corpses, heightened reality with unreal landscapes (one victim running through the cityscape reminded me of scenes from Inferno), and a pounding rock soundtrack during the kills. Perhaps the strangest aspect of Zoom In is that ultimately it is a love story. I've often talked to female friends, usually strong independent women who are scholars, intellectuals, and feminists, who express an interest in the idea of being dominated by men. So maybe Saeko is missing a strong, aggressive male presence in her life, and all we see in the film is her fantasy. Then again, the appeal of the Pube Burner may be some strange universal constant in the world of Zoom In the women all crave his burning caress even if it kills them.

Impulse's July 2012 release of Zoom In: Sex Apartments has been unearthed from the dark side of the moon and has escaped onto DVD with a quality 16:9 [2.35:1] widescreen image and removable English subtitles. You'll doubtless want to watch it with the subs, but don't expect hearing the words to help you come to grips with the narrative. Released under the fine bouquets of the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection, Jasper Sharp is once again called into active liner-note duty, doing his usual thorough job providing context and tidbits about the film, such as pointing out that the director is seemingly a fan of classic horror (dig the Japanese poster for Hammer's Taste The Blood Of Dracula in one of the apartments), as well as detailing a little bit about the other films in the Zoom Up series (though the reasons behind why this entry is titled Zoom In instead of Zoom Up like the rest has apparently been lost). The title is also apparently more accurately translated as Rape Apartments. The theatrical trailer is included on the DVD. 7/27/12