Peter Tasker

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Fruits

Terayama’s China Doll


by

Peter Tasker

by

Peter Tasker

Les fruits de la passion (1981) is  Shuji Terayama’s attempt to fuse avant garde film techniques with hard-core erotica.

The plot is loosely based on Return to the Chateau,  the sequel to the famous French pornographic novel The Story of O. In Japanese the film is known as Shanghai Ijin Shokan  China Doll (上海異人娼館チャイナドール)。

The project was initiated by celebrated French producer Anatole Dauman who had previously caused a sensation with Nagisa Oshima’s  sexually explicit In the Realm of the Senses (1976; Japanese title Ai no Korida, 愛のコリーダ ).

The international cast includes Arielle Dombasle as O’s rival, Natalie, and Klaus Kinski in the role of Sir Stephen, the decadent English aristocrat. Ms. Dombasle went on to become a major star of French cinema and a successful singer, as well as the wife of rock-star philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy.

According to Klaus Kinski’s autobiography, the sexual scenes were not simulated. “The director, Shuji Terayama, signed a contract stipulating at least six sexual acts – meaning that I have to fuck five girls in front of the lens.”

Furthermore conditions on the set were far from ideal. Kinski notes “there’s no air-conditioning, the mercury hits 106 in the shade, we have to work twenty four hours a day and all we get to eat  is watery soup …we’re all sweating buckets, the water is literally streaming down our ass cracks… the unbearably heavy and muggy tropical heat weighs on your nuts like sandbags…”

Still, by his own account the great German actor rose to the occasion with aplomb.

Reality is dead. Long live illusion!  Shuji Terayama, The Book of the Dead.

現実が死んだ。幻想万歳!

Terayama was not interested in making a screen version of “Pauline Réage‘s” monotonous SM epic. Instead, he told producer Dauman, he wanted to make a Terayama film. Accordingly the setting would be shifted from Paris to China in the 1920s and the sex would be depicted “as a form of political revenge.”

Specifically there would be explicit sexual scenes – some featuring sado-masochistic practices –  in which oriental men would be shown with European women. At the time this was ground-breaking for a mainstream film and indeed remains so today.

He also developed a sub-plot  in which a group of desperate Chinese and Japanese form a resistance movement that carries out acts of anti-Western violence. “O” falls in love with a handsome young revolutionary. After a confrontation with the resistance, Sir Stephen is exposed as a coward and Natalie leaves him too.

Terayama’s emphasis on liberation is in stark contrast to the nihilistic submission celebrated in the original novel.

If I Become a Whore; lyrics Shuji Terayama, music Kosaburo Yamaki, performed by Haruna SawadaEnglish lyrics  as below –

If I become a whore 

I’ll always leave the door open

So swallows can fly in from the sea

La, la, la, la

 

If I become a whore

I’ll buy a great bar of soap

To wash the man I love

La, la, la, la

 

If I become a whore

Come along even if you have no money

In this life we’re all in the same boat

La, la, la, la

 

If I become a whore

I won’t need beautiful roses

Just remember me sometimes

La, la, la, la