&: Diary (12)

(November 11th, 2019) I know I've told the story before, probably even in another one of these entries, but whenever I fly out of PEK, I think of the time that I was escorted to my flight by junior members of the Datong Public Security Bureau. They were both in plainclothes, jeans and windbreakers, and when they tried to take a nap after our meal at the Real Kungfu, a waitress came by to scold them, and they didn't even bother trying to use any limited authority they might have had, but instead waved her off, like any cranky man in his early-40s would have: "What's it to you? He's still eating, isn't he? Go yell at those people over there, instead. Give me a goddamn break." The two PSB men slept and I watched those country girls, all with shiny black bangs, all braless in their red polo shirts, wiping down the tables after the lunch rush. When it was time for my flight, they walked me over to the security gate and were again reprimanded, this time for trying to sneak through, by a skinny girl in loose-fitting fatigues, who looked like a child soldier manning a roadblock after her rebel faction seized the presidential palace and raided the armory for belts and berets. But today, I'm unescorted, so I can get a ham-and-cheese and iced Americano from Costa and try to figure out one single article in an old issue of Dushu I found at the bottom of my bag while packing again.

Another observation I am not making for the first time: when I fly back to Tokyo, I am always struck by its disorganization and its chaos. Why isn't there a direct train line from Haneda to a larger hub? Why do I have to transfer at Hamamatsucho? This isn't an important criticism. I probably wouldn't notice, flying in from KIX. But I mean that my eyes are always dazzled by the scenery of Tokyo: advertisements all over the place, glowing shop signs, everything seems to be under construction or renovation and there are hundreds of square feet of signage telling travelers and staff about detours and safety precautions. But then, once again, conversely, Tokyo seems dreary compared to Beijing. Once you enter the first tunnel from one section of the station to another, surrounded by men that have changed from their Cool Biz summer-weight suits to the warmer uniforms of early winter, tramping in lockstep, nine o'clock at night and still on their way home through the bowels of a Yamanote Line station.

(November 12th, 2019) I was thinking, with the Bookworm closing in Beijing, how there was a distinct sort of expat-in-Beijing group identity, although that faded five or six years ago. There's that wonderful parody of David Blum's "Hollywood's Brat Pack," which namechecks the Bookworm (and also Jenny Lou's and April Gourmet and Element Fresh)... I always had a chip on my shoulder, living way out in the middle of nowhere, cities with millions of people that nobody cared about, like Datong or Dalian or Nanjing, or even Guangzhou. If I hadn't been invited last year to do an event at the Bookworm, thereby welcomed into what was left of that Beijing clique, and if I hadn't drank at a hutong bar with ***** *** *** **** ********* *** ****** **** **** ***—well, that cooled some of the burn of being shut out for so many years, lost in the wilderness. But it makes me think about the group of expatriates that hung around Tokyo in the early-2000s, around the same time as you had ***** ****** *** ****** ******** in Beijing, and the very different role they took, far less political, and more engaged with a local cultural scene, even sometimes making a name for themselves in that scene, often even publishing books in Japanese, while remaining mostly unknown to the wider world. This is comparing two very different countries, but I can't help but wonder if the slow exit of all privileged expatriate drifters and the closure of their Beijing haunts is not the sign of, say, creeping authoritarianism, but, like, some cultural confidence, a sense that there is no longer a need for what turned out to be mostly hostile foreign elements in Beijing—and it is creeping authoritarianism, perhaps, but also the liberal elements in China's capital that fostered the livelihoods of those people and those places simply moving on, either forced to abandon their liberal principles or realizing that it's all a bunch of bullshit. But also, this is just bullshitting here, and maybe I don't understand the function of these people and places or who was funding them... Just bullshitting here, okay? And I could also throw in, like, the diminished role of Beijing in culture? Like, all those years in Guangzhou or Nanjing, there were plenty of writers and artists and musicians doing interesting work in interesting spaces, but usually very self-contained, or feeding into regional scenes, while Beijing was increasingly seen as a place to go and make a living as a culture worker. This seems like a problem not so much with creeping authoritarianism as it is a problem that other global capitals have, with financialization and neoliberalism or whatever, a housing market that squeezes out interesting people and places. Again, this is just bullshitting.

Returning to Tokyo, I say once again: I would move to Beijing in a heartbeat, even now, for the right deal. But living in an East Tokyo slum and surviving off freelance checks is better than any offer I've gotten for a job in Beijing. There's nothing like a long morning walk through Matsugaya to Asakusa (not real Asakusa which looks like Disneyland now, but the southern half, which I suppose is actually Kotobuki) to put things in perspective. Maybe this place will stay the same long enough. Maybe Tokyo will slip underwater. Maybe tourism really has peaked and they can stop building hotels. Maybe a populist firebrand will rise to power and close key sections of the city to tourism except on weekends, and put up blocks of social housing instead of new apartments, and Taito Ward will organize production teams to finish the reconstruction of Sanyabori Park, giving porn-addicted incels and precariously-employed girl bosses the opportunity to mingle and form relationships with each other... Probably not. You know, racial nationalism and weak neoliberal reforms are the worst form of politics ever invented, and best case scenario for Japan would be something like Orbánism, rather than waiting for another real estate boom and the invention of robots to mitigate the need to import labor from Nepal and Southeast Asia. Fuck it. Maybe I'll move to Hanoi and watch the place go to shit from afar, or maybe I'll go back to Guangzhou. Maybe I'll stick around. Who knows? The walk from Matsugaya to Asakusa makes me want to stay, at least, and a late lunch of hamburg steak at a café that seems, in the absence of regular customers, to have been turned over by the owner to an expanding collection of house plants, and a stop at a supermarket up the street (Maruetsu is being renovated) that somehow still has soft, plump Aichi figs but also imported Italian ricotta.


&: Diary (11)

(November 3rd, 2019) I was reading Lasch on confessional literature, and, of course, he says, "the popularity of the confessional mode testifies, of course, to the new narcissism that runs all through American culture," but he draws a line between self-disclosure that helps one to to achieve a critical distance from the self and then "self-disclosure to keep the reader interested, appealing not to his understanding but to his salacious curiosity..." which is usually self-disclosure left "undigested, leaving the reader to arrive at his own interpretations." I'm thinking about the artform of doxing right now, and not the actual act or the skill involved assembling the materials, but how they are presented, and how it differs from the self-confession, autofiction confessional (or more likely, for this example, I guess you would compare the presentation of materials from a doxing with a self-curated social media account, since that makes much more sense). I wonder if it's an internet age impulse to self-dox, to inoculate against your enemies doing it for you—but no, Lasch is right, it's just narcissism, most of the time. That goes for Marie Calloway and Daniel Lord, at least, to name two millennials that have spread their lives across the internet. I can tell you this: everything I've ever done, I've talked about it on the internet. I mean... almost everything, I think. There must be something. It might have been posted under my own name or anonymously on a message board or in an IRC channel. But I guess most of it, hopefully, is buried in fiction, which is mostly an unpublishable private literature. And the question of doxing, it makes me wonder this: since I have said—somewhere or in some form—nearly everything that I have ever done, what is there that I don't want anybody else to know? What information could be held over my head? Of course, that goes back to the art of doxing, and the curation, where even reasonable facts could be used for harassment. But no, what is there, really? What could really ruin me? I have the urge to write here what my guesses would be. I know I've admitted some of them before, somewhere on the internet. How narcissistic, indeed, to imagine that anyone would ever bother digging them up.

I have become less confessional, at least in these entries. I need time to go by. I am happy to give a detailed breakdown of my moral failings at twenty or twenty-five, but maybe I'm smart enough not to record more recent transgressions, or maybe it's a product of working for myself, not having a day job, and being, in a very, very minor way, a public figure. It could be that I have enough experience turning experiences into some kind of literary product that I am hesitant to spill my guts "undigested" here and now; it could be that I realize how banal any dark-ish thoughts or experiences are, without some kind of artistry applied to them; it could be that I've become dull and reliable as I've aged; it could be that I sense there's not much of a readership for the things I want to say; and it could be that I have found a way to process or even enjoy things by myself. I couldn't tell you.

The problem before was that when I wrote undigested work anonymously, it seemed to be good, and when I finally digested it, I was lying. I go back to things I wrote on the internet, a very long time ago, like an entry, here, more than a decade ago, about going to Lianyungang, in which I said I had met a Russian woman and went bowling. That is not what happened but it is based on some fact. A friend that went to Lianyungang with me did, as I recall, meet a Russian woman, but I believe she might have been a missionary of some sort, and I probably saw a bowling alley, but what actually happened on that trip is that I put a cinderblock through the Plexiglass door of a bar, where I had drank a bottle of tequila and spent most of the night blackout drunk, trying to fuck a chubby Colombian girl. It makes me cringe, thinking about the falsified version of the trip. I would often tell the story to friends, about how I tricked my friend into getting into a taxi, then went back to the bar, but, yes, it probably wouldn't work, just writing it out, even if it was digested beyond self-disclosure. It's fine to adjust the facts, but I ended up with something untruthful and dull. Just like the Beijing story, where I show up in the city and the country for the first time, and I have a fairly wholesome time exploring the city, and that's what I wrote down, when, in fact, I flew to Beijing, panicked and missed my flight, and invested most of the money I had just made selling my 1992 Chevrolet Beretta GT in two prostitutes that worked in the hotel spa that the black taxi took me to. I was fat and depressed and still full of paroxetine, huffing and puffing through a paid threesome in a country I was scared shitless to be in, and then I spent the rest of the time there in my hotel room, only occasionally leaving to buy cigarettes and Coca-Cola. That story is more truthful and has more possibility.

And then, also, sometimes I hesitate to write something down, even in a heavily digested form, because I think nobody will believe it. When I wrote about an extended stay in a rural Shaanxi juliusuo, it pained me to have people speculate that I had made the whole thing up. This goes back to doxing and the private fantasy of being savagely doxed—nobody ever doubts that! Looking at the horrific treatment that ***** ******** received, with chat logs and nude pictures leaked, one day, when she is middle-aged, I guess, looking on the bright side, and she is finally out of a detention facility for the crime of drawing policemen as pigs, she can look back on her dirty little exploits and her perfect, young body, and she'll have that, and nobody can ever doubt her credibility. And maybe the problem is with oversharing but also overexplaining. Maybe I should just let these thoughts go...

(November 4th, 2019) I don't have a thing about shoes or feet but this still doesn't need any explanation: I bought ****** a pair of white Air Max because I wanted to fuck her while she wore them and press their crisp leather sides to my cheeks. I bought ***** a pair of Gucci Jordaan horsebit loafers (this is not a sexy shoe but still) mostly because I wanted to fuck her while she wore them, on the bed in our suite, with her skirt still on, and for other, more practical reasons. Instead, we took a taxi into the city and walked over to eat crayfish at Hu Da and she tracked the soles across dusty early-winter late-night Gui Jie sidewalks. In the morning, ***** woke me up and **** ** **** while I was half awake and half hard. I didn't bother telling her to put the shoes on. I had already forgotten about them. She **** **** *** * **** ******* *** ***** ** **** *** **** *** **** ***** ***** ****** * ****** ** *** ****. I went to take a shower, after, she stood outside, inspecting herself, nude, in the mirror **** ** *** ***** ** *** *****. She said: "I'm skinny again." She had already eaten a hotel breakfast of bacon and eggs, and showered. I was in China to pick up an envelope and for a few meetings but taking ***** is a good excuse to leave the hotel. We walked through Wudaoying and I bought her tanghulu and a fake oversized cashmere Chanel pullover and fake stretchy Acne Blå Konst jeans and she wore them out of the store with her old clothes in a bag. and I took her to the Confucius Temple (I'd never been there before and I never went to Tiananmen or Qianmen until I walked by one time last year with Nick Stember, and I've still never been to the Great Wall) to pose in front of the statue of the Sage, and we sat under seven hundred year old cypress trees, drinking yogurt out of glass bottles. If I was alone, I would have laid in bed, watching RT and drinking Diet Coke until I was forced to leave.

(November 6th, 2019) Smoking a cigarette outside of a public bathroom on an alley somewhere between Guozijian and Fangjia Hutong, a man in his sixties or seventies asks me, "Where are you from?" I answer and he lights a cigarette and we stand for a while talking. I offer that I have been coming to Beijing for many years and the area has change immensely. I managed to find a topic he was passionate about and he began running through a list of recent demolitions. I took a guess at his accent—Henan, I said, and I was right—and he told me how he had come to Beijing fifteen or so years prior, following after his daughter, who had married a man that was involved in a construction business. The family still rented rooms in the neighborhood. He was not concerned with the demolitions erasing some historical character of the neighborhood but because they would eventually drive his family out to the suburbs. Like the Jiaodaokou policeman in Michael Dutton's "Building a Gift of Politics," the history of the Henanese contractor's son will not be recorded.
Gesturing across the room, out the window and over to the street in front of the police station, Liu smiles before breaking into a chortle: "D'you know what that lane, that one out front of the police station, was called during the Cultural Revolution?" he asks rhetorically, "Well that one was called Study Chairman Mao Lane!" A huge grin appears on his face. ...
Whatever brings a community together is sacred, says Bataille, and renaming streets was part of a series of ritual and often violent activities that would tear the community apart yet bring it together. This was affect built upon a violent division. It was built on the power of class struggle, a force that would drive groups apart yet, paradoxically, cement even more intense, passionately and tightly the group that struggled together against an enemy. "Could there be classes without a Church, without a sacret, without sacrifice? Could there be a society without spiritual power, radically separate from temporal power?", asks Roger Caillois.
"Nobody knows about these things anymore, and if you want to look them up you can't because there are no records", explains Liu Zhengxian as he offers up even more examples of absurdly revolutionary street names produced during the Cultural Revolution. He shakes his head, ruing not the name changes but the lack of recorded history. It is as though the lack of records has robbed him personally of his own time and place and in many ways, it has. ... The "rectification of street names", which saw the revolutionary ones taken down and the traditional ones returned, has been, in many ways, the rectification of China. Yet there is more to disinterring Liu's stories than correcting the historic record. These evocative tales, snippets of excess, and slogans of ultra-leftism shed light on moments of political intensity, of sacrifice, of devotion and extreme exuberance.
And in Dutton's Beijing Time, written with Hsiu-ju Stacy Lo and Dong Dong Wu, the anecdote appears again and Liu laughs about the name changes: "It is embarrassed laughter, confused laughter; it's cover-up laughter, laughter designed to paper over the fact that in these days of rampant market development, the rectification of names in the Cultural Revolution seems almost too absurd to be believed. ... Here we sit, in a suburb trying so very hard to resurrect its distant past but simultaneously trying just as hard to bury and erase its more recent one."

And the man I spoke to somewhere between Guozijian and Fangjia Hutong didn't laugh but changed the subject. "Are those American cigarettes?" he asked. "Japanese, huh?" He said: "But, look, nobody can beat China now, right? We were beaten by so many countries, even the Japanese," and he gestured at my cigarette, "but now nobody can beat us. We don't want to interfere with other countries, either." And he went on for a while on that topic.

I tried to write a book about my old neighborhood in Tokyo and was told by two editors that the manuscript had the beginnings of a good book but lacked the voices of local people. Without even trying, standing in an alley in Dongcheng, I already had a man-on-the-street anecdote.

(November 7th, 2019) These must be the trips I fantasized about taking, all those years I spent in the country eating shit, going to jail, living off potatoes pulled from baskets in front of neighbors' doors in a six story walkup in Dalian, and always going back to do it again. I'm not sure if I ever did fantasize or dream about rising above extreme poverty. I didn't, I'm sure I didn't—I would have put myself in a more comfortable position long before I did. But whatever. I often worry that I've lost all perspective on the country because half the time I'm here on somebody else's dime, usually in a big city. But I guess, you know, most of the people in the small community of foreigners that make a living writing about China spent their formative years in Beijing, living much like this, while I was, of course, of course, keeping it incredibly real, goddamnit. So, yes, listen, I can spend the day ferried around in a car hired by ***** and go for ****** ** **** ******** ** ******* *** *** ***** *** ** **** ******** **** **** ** ****** ******** ********** *** *** *** *—well, fuck it, you get the picture. And there's a certain pride in it, for me, since a couple years ago, I was still working as a ********* *** ** * ********* ** ********* ******** ** * ***** and trying to find a way to make a living without breaking my body down. But I realize anybody reading this will either find it all ridiculous or not something that they could relate to. I probably shouldn't bring ***** with me on these trips, since it puts me in a good mood rather than a nostalgic, contemplative mood, and I do things like get drunk on champagne at ******** ****, overlooking an octopus sculpture advertising Panerai watches at ********** ***, sitting a few empty tables away from a couple that was so in love that they sat side-by-side, the man's hand so tightly clasped on his girlfriend's thigh that he could sniff it contentedly while she slipped away to the bathroom, and another couple who sat across from each other on a narrow two top and fed each other spoonfuls of panna cotta and mango ice cream and cotton candy grass (the panna cotta was shaped like a bunny). And I would comfort myself by saying, Well, how arrogant of me, to assume there is anything to be written about Beijing, by me, at least, and it's better to simply enjoy it, and the truth is always more interesting.


&: Scenes from sukeban films (Ike + Sugimoto)

There's something about the seven or eight films that Ike Reiko and Sugimoto Miki made between 1970something and 1970something invite you to write your own story over top of them, like a blank screen for projecting whatever ideas you want. They have a dreamlike quality. I mean. There are people that you dream about, and you can dream about them for years, even if you haven’t seen them in a decade, two decades, and they pop up again and again, always themselves but recast in different roles. I still dream about ******, all these years later, and sometimes it is the present and sometimes it is ten years earlier or ten years in the future, and we might still be together or she might be a prison warden or a waitress or a remarried and living in Nipawin, but—like Reiko and Miki, trapped forever in 1972 or 1973—she is perpetually young, perpetually beautiful, eternally the same. I wake up each time I dream about her and wonder: ******, where are you now? ******, are you still beautiful? Ike Reiko, where are you now? Sugimoto Miki, where are you now? I know roughly where ****** would be, but I couldn't answer the same question about Ike Reiko or Sugimoto Miki. I find myself studying the faces of older women on the subway, the glamorous women that get off at Higashi-Ginza as I ride out to Shibuya, or peering down from a pedestrian overpass on Omotesando, looking through the zelkova... Ike Reiko would be sixty-six years old but perhaps it is too optimistic to imagine her as still glamorous, still living in Tokyo. She retired from acting before I was born. There is not much to go on, with her later biography. Is there any truth to the rumors of drugs and gambling? Did she get married? Did she have kids? Sugimoto Miki would be the same age, too, and she left the business even earlier than Ike Reiko, supposedly marrying a businessman and becoming a preschool teacher. It doesn't really matter. Like ******, the only place I ever see Sugimoto Miki and Ike Reiko are my dreams—and these pink films are like dreams, aren't they? They resemble dreams, to me, in form and tone, with plots that meander or never really make sense, and then sudden bursts of action, dominated by violence, sex, and torture.

The pink movies are from another time, the mid-late Showa so distant it might as well be a dream. They were meant to represent reality intensified—you couldn't put blood and guts on TV and it would be another decade or so before everyone had a VCR. The pink films brought In another age, maybe Ike and Sugimoto would have been bigger stars, or maybe they would have disappeared onto the roster of some back alley production company's roster, starring in monster movies or, well, hey, maybe doing AV, right? But in the early-1970s, the big production companies forced out the smaller players and started making their own pink films. Nikkatsu kept making gangster flicks and employing Imamura Shohei, but their Romanporno series was what paid the bills when respectable people stayed home to watch TV. The pink world was inhabited by onsen voyeurs and promiscuous danchi wives and horny shoguns. Toei launched their own pink series and put all their best legitimate talent behind it, so even though the films were churned out with tight deadlines and tighter budgets, they are often technically sound, and often beautiful and strange and compelling. Nikkatsu directors. They had stars. Nikkatsu had Miyashita Junko and Katagiri Yuko. But Ike Reiko and Sugimoto Miki are immortal because of another Toei innovation: they figured out that the best way to combine softcore pornography and bloody beatdowns was to center the films on female gangsters. These are the sukeban films.

There are other films that could be put in the sukeban category (I’m thinking of Half-Breed Rika, Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, some of the Stray Cat Rock films, especially Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, and maybe even the Female Convict Scorpion series) but, to me, the ones without Ike Reiko and Miki Sugimoto do not count. The two women starred together in most of the Girl Boss series and most of the films in the Terrifying Girls' High School series. These are the films I’m talking about when I talk about the extended dream that the two actresses are trapped in.

There is a scene midway through Terrifying Girls' High School: Women's Violent Classroom (1972) that I think comes close to summing up the genre: high school girl boss, Michiko (Sugimoto Miki) directs her clique to bind their teacher, Yoshioka Keichi (Naruse Masataka ) and then directs three of her bosozoku friends to kidnap and rape his girlfriend in front of him, and then, out of nowhere, Yuki (Ike Reiko), arrives to stop the rape and formally challenge Michiko to one-on-one combat—and cut to a knife fight on Venus Bridge, overlooking Kobe.

The rape is eroticized and fetishized, with the camera over the shoulder of one of the three young thugs as he uses a heavy pair of scissors to cut the clothes off the woman and then teases her nipples with the cold metal handle. Her panties are ripped off and tossed to one of the members of Michiko’s clique, who sniffs them and passes them to another girl to cram in the mouth of Yoshioka Keichi. The setting of the film is modern, but the rules that govern the gangs are from an earlier time. When Yuki bows to make her jingi o kiru introduction to invite Michiko to a one-on-one fight, or taiman, she’s abiding by the codes of her contemporary criminals but also the rough men of earlier times. Their fight on Venus Bridge is conducted according to the rules of chivalry films, or ninkyo eiga, but they can be traced further back to the jianghu. But, forget about that. I’m not a sophisticated viewer. I miss most of the subtleties. I’m watching without subtitles and relying on my weak Japanese.

Forget about that. This is not a reading of the films, since I contend that there's not much to read into them. The idea that they represent "communal feminism" or "spaces of social and sexual transgression" or are "subversive cinematic expressions of Japanese gender" or a "feminine counter-gaze" isn't convincing to me. These films sprung from the mind of studio executives and were executed by their directors with as much artistic integrity as they could hold onto, and they are fantasies. They're dreams. And so this is the most reaction, rather than a reading. It's just the story that I have laid over the films, fueled by my own fantasies. Ike Reiko and Miki Sugimoto have the most captivating faces I have ever seen on film. The sukeban films are an extended love story between them, told mostly through their eyes and the glances they share. The lovers meet and are parted, over and over again. This is not an analysis, and even if it was, it barely rises above slash fiction.

In this film, the key moment is shortly after they face off in the classroom. All other action seems to end and it seems to fade into the background. Over Michiko’s shoulder, we see the bosozoku thugs making a hasty retreat. The eyes of Michiko and Yuki meet. Those two faces, even if you have never seen these films, perhaps you can already guess their temperaments. Sugimoto is hard and vindictive. She is a lone wolf, sometimes, but also a brutal leader. Ike is the soft, feminine aspect. She is a convincing seductress.

The scene on Venus Bridge is part of the extended dream. High above Kobe, they might as well be two immortals in heaven. They roll on the ground and slap each other and grapple, but everything is communicated in their glances. It must have been intended as an erotic scene. There is no other explanation. And there is no romantic subtext here, or in any of the Ike-Sugimoto films, but look at their eyes… Maybe knowing the plot would help, but maybe not. These are the same faces that both women wear in a dozen other films, and they begin to feel real, and it’s hard not to think that they might reveal something of their true selves. That’s wishful thinking, maybe. That’s voyeurism; that’s trying to peer through the drapes.

The scene ends with Michiko producing a knife and tossing a twin switchblade to Yuki. The two women draw each other's blood. That is how relationships are sealed. There is a bond between them. They rule it a draw. Yuki runs from the bridge, dropping her wallet. Michiko picks it up and finds a newspaper clipping in it. Michiko learns that Yuki was orphaned as a child. They are bound even closer.

It's all part of the same dream. In a film shot a year later, Girl Boss Revenge (1973) Kanto Komasa (Sugimoto) falls afoul of the yakuza after robbing a card game. She is chained up and tortured. When she is freed by a junior member who takes pity on her, she repays him by seducing him. The camera slowly rolls down her bruised body. We have just seen her face in suffering (and nobody suffers like Sugimoto Miki), and now we see it in a type of ecstasy. Her body has just been stamped on by the yakuza wife who pried off one of her nails with a hairpin, but now she is in the arms of a man who cradles her on the dusty floor of a warehouse. But the man who she repays with her body is Maya's (Ike Reiko) one true love. She stumbles in to find them.

The scene is almost silent. The best Ike-Sugimoto scenes are silent. Ike Reiko's face seems to betray something—is it some inauthentic acting, the strangely stagey look she gives when she catches sight of Komasa, nude on the warehouse floor? She parts her lips, as if she is about to speak, then purses them and seems to shudder. Maybe it's meant to seem inauthentic. Maybe Maya is signaling something to Komasa, or trying to summon up a feeling that she doesn't really feel. Maybe there's an understanding. The two women share something intimate again. Not blood this time, but the same lover. And when Maya is betrayed by the same man and tortured in the same way that Komasa was, it is Komasa who comes to save her and to plan revenge.

The characters repeat. Maybe not in name but in type and temperament. The scenes repeat. Maybe not exactly but in form and tone. Ike and Sugimoto meet again, this time as Nami and Sachiko in Girl Boss Guerilla (1972). Once again, Sugimoto's Sachiko is a hard woman who makes her living in the jianghu, traveling from town to town, winding up this time in Kyoto. Once again, Ike's Nami rules with charm and is a seductress who has her heart broken. They meet in combat and earn each other's respect and form a bond.

When Sachiko is caught by yakuza thugs, it is Nami who saves her. She arrives with a rifle, gesturing for Sachiko to be freed. They let her go and Nami gives herself to the gangsters, beaten with the butt of her own gun, then raped by an underboss. It is Nami's own brother that allows her to be raped, and it is Sachiko that finally gets revenge, planting a bundle of dynamite and a timer in a Nissan Gloria driven by the yakuza leadership. And I only vaguely remember the plot of the film, which I seem to recall involves a boxing match being thrown, and has an extended scene of a woman being tattooed... It doesn't matter. That could be another film. The scenes repeat, the themes repeat. These are dreams. I appreciate a vignette, pulled at random, just as much, separated from the rest of the film.

The film closes on Sachiko leaving town with the original crew of bikers that she arrived with, but forget that, and it closes with a lingering look between Sachiko and Nami, one of them up on the mountain road and the other down by the stairwell where the two women bonded after their fight. Maybe the glance is more complicated than I imagine, but it's hard not to see it as the two women looking longingly into the middle distance and thinking of each other.

&: Scenes from sukeban films (first attempt)
&: Scenes from sukeban films (detour, unexceptional readings of '70s pulp cinema)
&: Scenes from sukeban films (bloodletting, youth in revolt)
&: Scenes from sukeban films (communal feminism is in the eye of the beholder)