WIFE COLLECTOR (HISAYASU SATO, 1985)
aka Hitozuma Collector, aka Decaying Town
Wife Collector was director Hisayasu Sato's third feature film, made in 1985. It follows the actions of a disgruntled taxi driver who regularly rapes his clients, videotaping the act. One of his victims, whom he has for some reason developed a sort of attachment to (partly due to the physical remains of the act; the evidence being the bite mark left on his shoulder), can no longer enjoy sex with her husband. Instead she takes to the streets and offers her body to whoever is willing, not charging anything. The woman's younger sister, who lives with her, has discovered all this and documented it with photographs that she eventually reveals to her sister and sister's husband, before she decides to meet with the taxi driver herself.
Not half as developed as many of Sato's later films, seeds of his themes and obsessions are still present. The dysfunctional family unit, represented by the two sisters and the older sister's husband is vaguely prominent, with no sense of unity existing between them. The taxi driver is very isolated in his own world, another characteristic that remains prevalent throughout Sato's oeuvre. The final key element that would pop up again and again in Sato's work is the camera; both the camera that the little sister uses to distance herself from (and eventually accept) what her sister has gone through, and the video camera that the taxi driver uses to document his crimes.
The film, for the most part, is a better than average ero-guro pink film, but the characters aren't developed enough to allow Sato's themes to become prevalent-- the audience gets the impression that the abundance of rape is more of a symbol for the disconnection and apathy that is present in these characters lives, but we don't understand the characters enough for this to approach anything beyond a level of shock. This is unfortunate, because looking back it's very obvious that Sato is a more than capable director when it comes to using shock for more intellectual purposes.
Which is why the film remains interesting, above being an above average genre flick-- there is evidence here of what Sato would soon become, and for someone like me who enjoys seeing progression in an artists work, every step of the way is fascinating, especially when each step manages to grow out of the former step. Overall, the movie is by no means remarkable, but definitely worth watching, especially for those with an interest in Sato.