Muscle (1989) - Hisayasu Sato
Wildly regarded for his Pink films, Hisayasu Sato is known tor tackling sexually subversive themes, and with Muscle, he has created a serious and haunting foray into Sadomasochistic culture, particularly as it pertains to homosexuality. The film is centered around Ryuzaki, an editor of Muscle Magazine. On his latest assignment, Ryuzaki attends an experimental play, where he first notices Kitami. Infatuated by Kitami, the two begin a passionate relationship that starts off tender but soon enough Kitami's more sadistic tendencies come to the surface. Sadomasochistic games become the norm, and during one particular passionate excursion involving knives, Ryuzaki cuts off Kitami's arm. Jump forward a year we find Ryuzaki being released from jail, setting out on a journey to find Kitami, the man Ryuzaki has fallen deeply in love with. Hisayasu Sato's Muscle is a film about the darker aspects of love, passion, and obsession, with Ryuzaki being a man who becomes infatuated with Kitami after experiencing such passionate pleasure. Shot with an oppressive sense of depth and color, Muscle feels almost like a nightmare, as Ryuzaki searches far and wide for Kitami, visiting every sex club and back alley possible. Similar to most of Sato's films, Muscle explores the relationship between pain and pleasure, but what makes this film so interesting is its downtrodden homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini. Muscle's similarities to Salo are obvious, being a film dealing somewhat in themes of sexual liberation, but how Ryuzaki's relationship with Kitami mirrors The Visitor in Teorema is a fascinating homage. Kitami is a character who has instilled a sexual awakening in Ryuzaki, but this awakening has created a borderline obsession, which also threatens to destroy him. The finale of Muscle is a strange mix of violence and passion, with Ryuzaki going to extreme lengths to express his love for Kitami. It's a sequence that only Japanese cinema can provide, being surprisingly romantic in the most subversive way possible, while capturing the power passion has over all of us. Subversive, strange, and unique, Hisayasu Sato's Muscle is part horror film, part subversive romance, arguing how we are all slaves to our passionate desires.
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