Monday, January 23, 2012

Cavitas Oralis Dentata

Haunting softcore porn, commentary on the objectification of women, statement regarding the essentially sexual nature of dentistry, a collection of strange and significant contexts for prolonged footage of a woman orgasming. There are a lot of ways I could describe 1964's Daydream (Hakujitsumu). It's a muddled film, I don't think director Tetsuji Takechi quite knew what he wanted to do. But there's enough interesting style and mood I can't call it a bad film.

The whole movie is told with dream logic, even the parts that don't seem to be part of the dream that makes up 95% of the film. It begins with a young man, Kurahashi, in a dentist's office who watches a woman, Cheiko, being treated in a chair next to him. Gratuitous footage is shown of the dentist feeling around the woman's mouth and squirting water into it while she moans orgasmically.

The dentist then pulls down the woman's dress and bites her between the breasts. This kicks off the general pattern of the rest of the film, a series of S&M scenes where the dentist is the dom and Cheiko is the possibly unwilling sub, while Kurahashi helplessly watches.

I found myself thinking of Blue Velvet, and like that film, Daydream draws a connexion between the voyeur and the villain. In one scene we see Kurahashi in a playground watching a monkey leashed by a string of pearls. When he looks away, the monkey becomes Cheiko, whom he tries to rescue from her animalistic existence by pulling on the pearls around her neck to lead her out of a small playground hut.

An effort she reacts to by writhing and moaning, again, orgasmically with possible mock resistance. The bulk of the movie has her in the throes of sexual passion, in fact, often accompanied by an atonal soundtrack of synthesiser and shamisen with sound effects of the dentist's drill thrown in. This is broken up twice, incredibly enough, by jazzy musical numbers, when Cheiko is seen singing in a nightclub, again bringing to mind Blue Velvet. But while Blue Velvet featured the positive aspects of the human spirit, Daydream has a more pessimistic attitude, apparently condemning people as helpless in the face of their bestial inclinations.

The longest segment in the film has Cheiko being pursued and tormented by the dentist in an otherwise deserted department store. One spooky moment has a night watchman discovering Cheiko lying naked in a displayed bed. He taps her, discovers she's merely a mannequin, and walks away, only to find she's mysteriously changed position while his back was turned, and we hear the sound of the dentist's laughter echoing throughout the store.

Nice little moments like this are bogged down, though, by sequences that go much too long, hammering in not particularly interesting statements, like one three minute sequence where Cheiko tries to escape the dentist by running down the up escalator.

There are some interesting ideas, some occasionally sexy moments, some occasionally creepy moments, and some decently composed shots. But this movie suffers from taking itself a bit too seriously, as the number of overlong sequences feel like a bludgeon.

At the end, Cheiko appears to discover that the teeth marks are still on her chest, meaning at least one part of what happened wasn't a dream. Though that's sort of like seeing a troupe of tap dancing dinosaurs and an ordinary duck and discovering that the duck was real.

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