Erotic Diary of an Office Lady (1977)

Continuing my way through Kimstim’s Masaru Konuma collection of Nikkatsu Roman Porno, I watched his Erotic Diary of an Office Lady the other day. (See my postings on Tattooed Flower Vase and Cloistered Nun: Runa’s Confession.) Compared to his other work, this film feels slight. With a couple exceptions, there’s little about it that boffo or over top. No comedic rapes at gun point or tattooed nymphomaniacs here.

Instead of surrealistic kink, the plot that unfolds is comparable to a Sundance coming-of-age flick. Asami (Asami Ogawa) is an OL — a female office worker. Like nuns and perfectly coiffed beauties in kimonos, OLs are another often fetishized feminine archetype. When she’s not operating a very unweldy Japanese typewriter, she has regular trysts with a married middle-management type. At home, she dutifully cares for her widowed, borderline alcoholic father. In short, she’s not too different from a lot of single Japanese women.

One day while out with her friends, she happens upon a mysterious young man who sells baby chicks on the street. When they run into each other again, there’s is clear romantic tension, though the guy ruins the moment by trying to jump her. Judging by movies like these, seduction in Japan is basically limited to the guy throwing himself at the girl. Later, they finally do hook up. During their fevered groping, the coop door gets kicked open and soon the copulating couple are surrounded by chicks. It’s a beautiful and memorably bizarre image, the kind that Konuma is brilliant at stringing together.

Afterwards, he asks her to run away together. She demurs and soon regrets it. Her father has shacked up with a boozy older co-worker and her subsequent encounter with her middle-management lover goes sour. She breaks up with him and he responds by (of course) raping her. Though this is more or less a requirement for the genre, it’s the film’s only false note. Whereas the rest of the film was, uncharacteristically for the genre, clearly shot from her point of view, this scene the POV shifts to that of the male audience. Only Ogawa’s skill as an actress keeps the tone of the scene from killing the rest of the movie.

The film ends with her lighting up a cigarette and staring into the distance as a hard rock ballad to freedom blares underneath. Her dad is no longer dependent on her, she dumped her middle-management manfriend (which in these sorts of movies isn’t always a given after a rape), and her chick-raising lothario disappeared. She is indeed existentially free. And this would be a great ending if the film set up that she wanted to be free to begin with. We know so little of the character and the camera is always kept at a distance that I was surprised and perplexed when the credits rolled. Did I miss something here or did the film make a left turn into a completely different narrative?

1 Response to “Erotic Diary of an Office Lady (1977)”

  1. 1 roy March 20, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Asami is on Osaka TV show Please Muscat singing and dancing with Akiho Yoshizawa and Mihiro!

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