Flower and Snake (2004) – By Cary Conley

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of Japanese pinku eiga (softcore porn) films, although some of them can be interesting.  But Takashi Ishii is an icon for his long association with directing these so-called Pink films, plus he directed a favorite of mine called Freeze Me, so I thought I’d give this one a try.  I’m glad I did.

Flower and Snake is about a rich husband and his world-famous Tango-dancing wife, who are both sexually frustrated.  The husband works long hours and drinks a great deal; consequently, he is either uninterested or unable to satisfy his wife.  His wife also travels extensively and finds herself having bondage fantasies.  The husband ends up owing the Yakuza a huge sum of money.  Frustrated by his wife’s perceived frigidity, he offers his wife to the Yakuza boss, who is a huge fan of the beautiful dancer.

The husband allows his wife, her driver, and her agent/bodyguard to be kidnapped by the Yakuza who then use the three in a secret snuff/sex show for the rich and famous, with the dancer as the star of the show.  Thus begins some of the most intense, erotic, (barely) softcore bondage I’ve ever seen.  Both the dancer, Shizuko Toyama (Aya Sugimoto) and her female agent are bound and sexually tortured and raped numerous times.  But the twist is that Shizuko begins to enjoy her painful slavery and willingly submits to more and more brutal shows until she becomes nothing but a vessel for sex.

While many of the sex scenes are rough, they are also sexy and beautiful.  But occasionally they can be a bit strong and over-the-top such as the amazing double penetration with phallic-nosed masks that ends in a forced golden shower.  Also, the scene where the aged and partially crippled Yakuza boss literally crawls from his wheel chair to worship his perfect obsession and have sex with her before he dies is a little on the disgusting side, too.

The film is highly charged and deeply erotic without crossing the boundary into hardcore pornography.  And unlike most films of this type, apparently no expense was spared in its creation; it is a lavish, well-acted, well-crafted production, with elaborate sets and gorgeous lighting schemes.  The score is minimal but wonderful and serves to heighten the tension and eroticism in the film.  Apparently, Japan has begun to relax its censorship laws on nudity because there are several scenes that show full frontal female nudity, traditionally a no-no in Japan.  There are some very brief instances of optical censoring only where the women’s bindings spread their legs in such a way that the nudity could be construed as hardcore pornography, but it really doesn’t detract from the film.  Aya Sugimoto is not only a fantastic actress but is also hands-down the most gorgeous Japanese woman I have ever seen on film.  The film would be worth watching even if it was terrible just for her plentiful nude scenes.

The only drawback is the ending to the film, which is a bit confusing and not entirely satisfactory.  It is implied that the entire episode could have been a fantasy conjured by Shizuko, and just as the audience begins to feel cheated by this revelation, Shizuko pulls out a gun—which she could have only obtained if the situation was reality—and shoots her husband to avenge her torture.  It really is a dreadful, confusing end to an otherwise fabulous movie, but it wasn’t enough to put me off too much.

If you enjoy an occasional pink film and you aren’t too put off with BDSM films, Flower and Snake is one of the absolute best and comes highly recommended.