“I figured out that my presence in their apartment was the cause of their fight.”
Kazuo Hara’s voyeuristic, open wound of a documentary opens up another round of questions regarding documentary ethics and intent, all while presenting an incisive portrait of changing politics through a personal lens.
The film starts as Hara’s wife, Miyuki, leaves him with their child and moves to Okinawa. As he explicitly states in voiceover, Hara decides to begin filming a documentary on her primarily as a justification to keep in contact with a woman for which he still has strong feelings. And from there, we are privy not only to the life of Miyuki – a radical feminist trying to gain a sense of independence in changing times – and the perhaps self-destructive psychology of Hara himself.
Now, just like The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, the footage in this film is absolutely batshit, though for decidedly different reasons than Hara’s later film. Here, we are witness to such personal ordeals that it becomes hard to watch, hard to justify the footage on any given basis. We see Miyuki being interviewed by Hara’s current girlfriend, and Miyuki holds nothing back in calling her ex untrustworthy and terrible in bed. The first time we see Hara onscreen, he is holding a microphone towards Miyuki and crying due to their interactions. Especially towards the start, the film feels almost vindictive, Hara’s attempts to demonise his ex on camera. But, as it goes on, a more complex picture of both Miyuki and Hara’s intentions comes to play. She starts a nursery for the children of prostitutes. She begins an affair with a black American naval officer (and becomes strangely obsessed with the idea of having a mixed-race baby). She hands out political pamphlets bemoaning the colonialist influence in Okinawa, then is beaten up by gangsters (offscreen) for her actions. And, in the film’s most powerful and insane scene, she gives birth – on camera, in one take – to a baby on the floor of Hara’s apartment, all by herself. And she is content to be a mother on her own, reliant on no one. A woman ahead of her time, forging her own path.
What makes Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 interesting and supremely worthy of praise, beyond the intimacy afforded here, are the questions regarding ethics and intent that it raises at any moment. Hara admits his ulterior motives upfront, but then does the film have value outside of his need for closure? Is it about Miyuki? Or is it about him? Them? If he exists primarily behind the camera but his presence is felt consistently – if he is necessary for this narrative to occur, regardless of its designated subject, does Hara himself become the main character?
And so those questions permeate the film, and the justification for filming any given scene is obfuscated, is complicated by motive and desire. And these questions are mirrored in Miyuki’s own quest for self-actualisation, as she often seems to be acting purely out of spite to the men who have hurt her, including and especially Hara. At what point in her journey does she become genuine, if she ever wasn’t?
What the hell is Hara doing here?
Now, those are the questions that make the film interesting on a moment-to-moment basis, but this is still potent on a macro level purely as a portrait of a complicated woman out of time, trying to find herself politically and personally in a turbulent time in Japan. This is complicated person trying to do right and to enact change (even if just in herself), and, whether or not Hara intended his film to act as a political statement, it became one. And a stunning one, too.
I honestly could talk about this for hours, there’s so so much going on, but it’s impossible to get everything out in this tiny essay (in which I’m sure I’ve already repeated myself because my thoughts are swirling like crazy), but this is further proof of Hara’s brash mastery of the camera.