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‘Go, Go, Second Time Virgin’: Horror and the Japanese New Wave

31 Days of Horror

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GO GO SECOND TIME VIRGIN Review

Raised on a farm, Koji Wakamatsu made his move to the big city as an adult, where he allegedly became involved in the Japanese mafia before he found his true calling. With no formal training, he went on to become one of Japan’s most prolific filmmakers in the history of cinema, having made more than 100 films. His experimental films are notorious for the highly explosive blend of sex, extreme violence, and radical political messages they contain.

Wakamatsu started his bizarre career in 1963 and rapidly became known as a “Grade B Godard,” directing 37 films in that decade alone, each with a youthful rebellious spirit. After his pink film Skeleton in the Closet was banned by the government, and he was abandoned by the studio he worked for, Wakamatsu decided to form his own production company in order to avoid censorship and have total creative control. His independent films of the late 1960s were very low-budget, and many of them too disturbing to be shown in theaters, but with time they would be regarded as some of the best of the Japanese New Wave. His films were usually produced for less than 1,000,000 yen (about $9,000), forcing him to cut costs at every corner, including shooting mostly in one location and relying on single, long takes and natural lighting. Among them is Go, Go, Second-Time Virgin, a hyper-stylized, avant-garde fever dream of suicide, rape, and mass murder, taking place mostly on the rooftop of an inner-city apartment building. It was shot in four days with a minuscule budget, and yet the movie looks and sounds amazing.

Go, Go Second Time Virgin

Loosely based on a script by his long-time collaborator Masao Adachi and inspired by a poem by Nakamura Yoshinori, Go, Go Second Time Virgin is said to be Wakamatsu’s most straight-forward film, containing a more linear and coherent narrative structure than his other work. And although most critics have classified it as a “pink film” —and despite the casual, frequent displays of nudity — the film’s depiction of sex could hardly be described as erotic. Go, Go Second Time Virgin is, if anything, an exploration of lost innocence between two psychologically scarred teenagers who are brought together by sexual violence, revenge, and rebellion.

The film opens as the girl Poppo (Mimi Kozakura) is dragged to the rooftop of a building and raped by four young men while a strange teenage boy (Michio Akiyama) stands to the side watching the events unfold. He is confused, aroused, and angry, but remains on the roof until the girl awakens from her trauma. When she does, the two teens develop a strange friendship, and over the course of a day, they share intimate details about their bleak and traumatic past. The boy relates how his parents forced him to participate in group sex, and how he later butchered them with a kitchen knife; meanwhile, via flashbacks, we learn that this isn’t the first time Poppo has been sexually assaulted. As the two kindred spirits sink lower into depression, they decide to exact revenge for the crime committed against the girl. But revenge isn’t enough to wash away the anguish, and the pair discuss the possibilities of ending their lives. “I am too hopelessly unhappy to live,” Poppo says. “Even rape didn’t erase the sadness”.

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Go Go Second Time Virgin is often described as a dark anthem for alienated, disaffected, youth, only Wakamatsu seems to have a bit more on his mind. Anyone who’s seen a few of Wakamatsu’s films would have noticed the ambiguous role that sex plays in his movies and how it almost always leads to self-destruction. Here is a movie that opens with a gang rape, and later shows two more rapes in flashback form; the first sees Poppo assaulted on a beach, and the second equally horrific scene sees the young boy, Tsukio, raped by the four people in his room. Go Go Second Time Virgin is a tough watch indeed, but despite the many disturbing scenes of abuse, the movie finds substance and beauty in between the horror.

Go, Go Second Time Virgin Packs a Tremendous Punch

Go Go Second Time Virgin is truly a work of art — a dazzling mix of stunning monochrome visuals juxtaposed with scenes shot in psychedelic, bright colors (most notably, a sublime blue) and accompanied by one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve ever heard, along with a traditional jazzy score. Though running barely over an hour, Go, Go Second Time Virgin packs a tremendous amount of artistry into every scene, and amidst the sadism are moments of intrinsic beauty. And while the ridiculously short shooting schedule and small budget explains its almost exclusive single rooftop location, Wakamatsu expertly uses the setting to help express each character’s psychological trauma. Despite taking place on an open rooftop, part of the film’s disturbingly hypnotic power derives from its claustrophobic feel. Wakamatsu does a marvelous job in framing his subjects, particularly the bird’s-eye view of Poppo and Tsukio from afar, which seems to mirror their sense of isolation, and the tightly framed close-ups to heighten the sense of hopelessness they feel. The relentless, downbeat atmosphere will prove too much for many viewers, but those with a strong stomach will find much to admire. Whether it’s high art or sleaze, or both, is up to the viewer to decide, but as we watch Poppo and Tsukio sit on the edge of the rooftop staring down at the empty streets below, the only way out, it seems, is to jump. Poppo’s repeated cries of “fuck you!” will leave you thinking about the film long after the credits roll.

Ricky
Quick side note: Keep your eyes peeled for a brief appearance by a very young Takeshi Kitano.

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast, I edit, and I design websites. Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goomba Stomp and Tilt Magazine. Host of the NXpress Nintendo Podcast and the Sordid Cinema Podcast. Former Editor-In-Chief of Sound on Sight. Former host of several other podcasts including the Game of Thrones and Walking Dead shows, as well as Sound On Sight. There is nothing I like more than basketball, travelling, and animals. You can find me online writing about anime, TV, movies, games and so much more.

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