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Film / Gate of Flesh

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Gate of Flesh is a 1964 film directed by Seijun Suzuki.

Tokyo, at some point relatively soon after the end of World War II. The city is a burned-out slum, ridden with crime, with seemingly the only growth industry being the sex trade, as Japanese women sell themselves to oafish American servicemen.

A young woman named Maya is wandering the streets, stealing for food. She winds up in the company of a band of hookers, led by hard-as-nails Sen. Sen explains that their group has one rule: never, never give it to a man for free. When a member of their troupe named Ofuku is caught having sex with a man for free, they hack off Ofuku's hair before ejecting her from their bombed-out ruin of a home.

Into this group comes Shintaro (Joe Shishido) a Japanese soldier who has just come home from the war in China. Shintaro takes refuge with the ladies after he is shot in the leg while fleeing from American MPs—it seems that he stabbed an American soldier. The presence of the rugged, manly Shintaro tests the women's pledge not to have sex for pleasure. In the end, he forms the closest bond with Maya.


  • Coat Full of Contraband: One random moment has a hoodlum roll up his sleeve to reveal an arm full of watches for sale.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The four prostitutes each wear only one color. (The fifth, Machiko, stands out by wearing a kimono, but she spends less time with the core group.)
  • Downer Ending: Betrayed by the other hoodlums, who think that he will run away with their contraband, Shintaro is shot down and killed by the MPs. Maya, after she is whipped by her fellow hookers and thrown out of the group, makes it to the bridge for her rendezvous with Shintaro, but he isn't there.
  • Eagleland: Flavor 2, big-time, with American servicemen sexually exploiting the Japanese. When two MPs find Maya in a field after she was raped (apparently, as the movie doesn't show how she got there), they simply drive away. Shintaro stabbed an American soldier because "he had it coming". Someone is handing out "American stew" to feed the locals in the Red Light District; one man finds a condom in his food. At the end, a shot of a Japanese flag lying in a gutter is followed by a shot of an American flag flying proudly atop the local base.
  • Erotic Film: A bunch of sexy prostitutes, who spend most of the movie lounging around in negligees, all hot and sweaty in a Tokyo summer without air conditioning. Into their number comes a handsome, muscular man. Much sex and a surprising amount of nudity follow.
  • Godiva Hair: When Machiko is stripped naked and whipped, her long hair covers her breasts.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: In a scene where Machiko and her man are having sex, a decorative statue on a shelf obscures their privates as the camera pans by.
  • Kimono Is Traditional: Notably, while the other four women in the group wear cocktail dresses and negligees, and color-coded ones at that, Machiko is dressed in a traditional kimono. She is obviously symbolic of the old ways of pre-war, Imperial Japan. She is also the only one who wants a husband (although she gets past that).
  • Narrator: Maya occasionally narrates her story in voiceover.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: A particularly pointed one that pans up from the degradation and misery of post-war Tokyo to show an American flag flapping proudly in the wind.
  • Red Light District: A Wretched Hive that teems with prostitutes and criminals, living in the ruins of post-war Tokyo.
  • Shower Scene:
    • Some Fanservice in a scene where one of the women is wielding a hose as a shower, with some of the others walking through naked and washing up.
    • Then some co-educational Fanservice in a scene where Shintaro takes a shower, his naked behind visible to the camera as the four women watch in wide-eyed admiration.
  • Streetwalker: The women work the streets in a classic manner. In one scene there's a fight with another hooker who snuck into their territory.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Two different scenes have women of the group stripped naked and whipped for violating the "never have sex for free" rule. The fetish appeal of these scenes is obvious, especially since although the women are swinging hard, somehow they never leave anything worse than red welts. Interestingly, getting whipped seems to break something in Machiko. She is punished because she had sex for free with an admirer who wants to marry her. Earlier in the film Machiko (the one who dresses in a kimono) wistfully remembered when she was a proper wife during the war, and she seems eager to marry her admirer. But after she's whipped she instead seduces Shintaro, and she talks about how now that she can get married, she doesn't want to anymore.
  • Time Passes Montage: A montage of scenes where Shintaro mugs people, both Japanese and American servicemen.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Just some of the Fanservice, as one of the hookers is seen naked from behind as she's fixing herself up.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The members of the little band of hookers punish Ofuku by hacking off all her hair.
  • Villain in a White Suit: Ishii, the crime boss, walks around in a crisp white suit. This is even more notable because all the hookers wear bright primary colors, and all of the lower-rank criminals are sweaty and dirty.