Friday, June 15, 2007

池玲子 - 恍惚の世界 Ike Reiko: Koukotsu No Sekai

1970s Japanese bad girl starlet Ike Reiko (link2) is awe inspiring. I am not the first nor, most assuredly, the last to type those words.

A velvet gloved fist of tough girl attitude and sexuality, she's the star (together with her beautiful partner in crime, Sugimoto Miki) of a host of early 1970s bad girl movies including the incredible SUKEBAN series (aka. the 'Girl Boss' Series).

Born in Tokyo in 1953 as Ikeda Reiko, she had a successful career as a nude model until she was cast in the 1971 Toei production ONSEN MIMIZU GEISHA (aka. Hot Springs Earthworm Geisha [my translation]). Ike Reiko proved to be a big hit, and the reasons are pretty clear: her large breasts. She was cast in a host of other movies including the aforementioned SUKEBAN series (for which she is arguably still most famous) but she also shows up in period yakuza films like Ishii Teruo's YASAGURE ANEGO DE: SOKATSU RINCHI (aka. Female Yakuza Tale) (interesting in itself a subversion of the Fuji Junko genre archetype as established in the Red Peony Gambler series) and in the mid and late 70s in two of Fukasaku Kinji's Yakuza masterworks: JINGI NAKI TATAKI: DAIRI SENSO (aka. Battle Without Honor and Humanity Part 3: Proxy Wars) and JINGI NO HAKABA (aka. Graveyard of Honor).

One of the cool things about these movies is that there's a hell of a lot more going on than it appears at first glance-- not the least being a major subversion of gender roles (an incredibly progressive move for the time) and a general societal criticism of conservative social politics. But that's, of course, not why people were going to see these films. Nu-uh. It was for the nude beauties, the incredibly funktastic rocking soundtracks, and thrilling (which now can be described charitably as dassai kokkoii: so lame it's cool) action.

What's not as well known is that Ike Reiko had a (short lived) musical career. Limited to one LP and two cassette singles, they're entries in the mini-genre called Iroke Kayou[k]yoku (色気歌謡曲), which can best be described as audio soft-core porn (or 'aural shunga'). Largely comprised of maudlin studio performed lounge music music with slow moaning hurdy gurdy belches in the background, Ike Reiko whispers, groans, and otherwise makes love to the microphone all with the intention of getting the listener (presumably a man) off.

After listening to the entirety of the LP, KOUKOTSU NO SEKAI • The Ecstatic World of Ike Reiko (池玲子 - 恍惚の世界) one feels sufficiently violated and confused by the whole experience. My initial instinct was to laugh. Because, how can you take something like this seriously?

(As an aside, I remember in the mid to late 1990s with the perfection of 3-D sound and surround-sound headphones, there were a series of pornographic CDs that were on the market designed as a virtual sexual experience. This was, of course, when virtual reality was all of the rage and when films like STRANGE DAYS offered dystopian views of the horror of extra-sensory abuse as manipulated by the cold controls of a machine.)

At any rate, there is something incredibly cool about this album that I've grown to appreciate. It is a slice of kitsch sexuality that's been purposefully manufactured to satisfy the prurient interests of the audience. Yet, there is something both disarmingly sincere about the disc and also so undeniably ridiculous, that it is impossible not to be charmed by it.

Poking around on the internet, I found an audio clip (with some useless [censored] visuals) on YouTube. So here's a clip of Ike Reiko performing a track off of KOUKOTSU NO SEKAI:

The amazing folks over at the Tokyo-based Tiliqua Records have done a bang-up job re-mastering and re-releasing KOUKETSU NO SEKAI (Tiliqua Records - TILAR-5002CD). According to their website it is totally sold out and a peek at Tower Records Japan, confirms this. But I know that when I was last in Tokyo in the late winter, I was able to find copies here and there so it is not impossible to track down. Also, PANIK HOUSE's PINKY VIOLENCE includes some Ike Reiko tracks as a bonus disc.

Regrettably, Ike Reiko purportedly lived her life in a manner not terribly different from the characters she played in the movies, getting involved in drugs, gambling, and the Yakuza. Unable to rally herself to a return to stardom she faded from the the public eye, leaving a series of brutally entertaining classics that are well worth a watch.

For more info, check out my entry on Hotwax.

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