Apr 3, 2011

Madame O


For the past several days I have been plagued with fluish symptoms. During this brief period of hell, I had managed to view quite a number of films with Madame O being one of the more memorable ones. Not just because I, too, shared a "rot" of sorts with the main objector of the film but also because of the pulp decadence that played a part of this early entry in pinku. Past polygamy, Seiko harnesses the terror grained in her roots from a savage rape to fuel her moonlight attacks on men. Depicted only during a single and short scene, Madame O makes sure not to stick so much as to the erotic nature of her molestation as to focus almost exclusively on the stylistic composition of the film. After all, without the pseudo-noir and the toggled monochromatic/color, why, Madame O would have been left a sizzling piece of stale pink, as non-titillating as could be. Due to the absence of logical Japanese perversion and fetishistic truths, Madame O is counterfeit Americana picked up for Western soil via Audubon Pictures. It is in this vein that makes Madame O seem unfitted for any proper audience. You can herd it any which way you'd like but Madame O will never feel or be at home. No, Madame O was clearly made for a different species of being and in this context I'd imagine it getting the vast recognition it almost deserves.

Labeled as a killer and outcast as a saint, Seiko's livelihood makes up of two key activities: performing complicated surgeries, saving the lives of many, and seducing and transmitting her syphilis (given to her upon the rape) while the male contender rests peacefully after an explicitly PG-13 night of consensual sex. The surgical precision in which Seiko applies her "scorned woman" archetype is as devious and calculated as it gets. She is a simple and stupid creature, labeling all men as chauvinist pigs and dealing them her inner-rot via cotton swabs. For these terrible attacks on men, you'd assume the violation she suffered through would have been a grueling experience but due to the foolish and prudish handling of Madame O, the rape scene is presented as a slightly eschewed game of ring-around-the-rosie, baring only a small amount of breast and retaining full dignity, syphilis withheld, of course. Seiko's life is challenged, however, when she finally transcends teasing death and actually murders a potential blackmailer. She then not only becomes a legit killer but picks up a note of love with a young doctor employed at her clinic. Once married, Seiko doesn't rest easy as she begins to suspect her husband being of questionable intention. Again, the utilizing of two separate palettes really draws the line between art and proto-sleaze, black and white representing the drama and color to visually resonate with the graphic (at the time) images on display. 

Madame O was, at times, breathtaking in its dazzling display of crisp cinematography. There is no denying its powerful images, including the silly throes of passion which barely stand for second base by today's standard. Whether or not you would enjoy it depends largely on your taste. Hailed as being cutting edge and graphic, Madame O is really neither - a fossil, more or less. Its value relies largely on its history and not so much the internal worth. Despite ending on a chord so silly and sudden that all dignity self-defenestrates upon credits, Madame O remained a worthy textbook pink film with rather unconventional decisions progressing itself in the art market. But if misandristic cinema is what you are looking for, Madame O can only satiate a small portion as there is no real revelation as to the reason of her madness, other than Seiko's whines of an unfortunate incident which have, no doubt, happened to millions of other people. This facet plays perfectly with her narcissism and leaves the air about the character unsettling and curious. I still don't how to feel about Seiko's resentment towards men other than blaming it on naivety. Recommended for a single viewing but no more. To learn more about Madame O or more Asian cult cinema, visit Synapse Films.



Unknown said...

Great writing on a film I've been curious about since seeing a trailer for it a year or so ago. Fascinating stuff.

Soiled Sinema said...

It's indeed fascinating. The experience soon dissipates though. While it stews though, is a great moment.


Phantom of Pulp said...

I would argue that it transcends the textbook pink film. Its title character is several parsecs beyond the standard pink heroine and its focus on Madame O's psychosis is not merely surface. Funny thing is, I don't even think of it as a pink film -- not in the Nikkatsu sense, anyway. I definitely like it more than you do, mAQ, but, once again, you argue your position very well.