This essay situates the impossible volume of Japanese pink filmmaker Hamano Sachi's more than three hundred films as a reproductive labor, arguing that through its iterative enactments her filmmaking practice performs renewals that invigorate her life as an onna (woman) in cinema and make it possible in the first place. The argument advances that we might understand Hamano's pink cinema as a woman's cinema that rewrites sex in non-phallic terms, borrowing from the artist and social theorist Bini Adamczak's theory of circlusive sex. Reading the visual and aural techniques of Hamano's pink cinema alongside her autobiography, the conflicts and desires Hamano faces as a woman in film, which recruit her reproductive labor to nourish her very existence, are brought into conversation. Because the autobiography implicates structures of value located in legible, visible forms, the essay ultimately advocates for investing in the material articulations of Hamano's pink forms.
Surpassed perhaps only by Alice Guy, Japanese filmmaker Hamano Sachi may be the most prolific woman director of all time.1 Since her directorial debut in 1970, she has made hundreds of films. While it remains difficult to identify the precise number, since the late 1990s Hamano has been associated so consistently with the numerical figure of 300 that it has effectively cathected to her name.2 Her autobiography, Onna ga eiga o tsukuru toki (When a Woman Makes Movies, 2005), invokes this number repeatedly, likening it to Guinness World Records–level productivity.3 As a body, the films testify to Hamano's singularity as a woman director in a Japanese film industry that was male-dominated when she entered in the late 1960s, and remains so to this day.4 This essay concerns the work iteration does to respond to the problem of her career—the problem of “when a woman makes movies.”
Hamano started in film in the midst of Japan's “season of politics,” a period marked by a particularly high density of protest and activism. The late 1960s and early 1970s also represented a moment when cinema became a privileged medium for the expression of radical politics.5 This is often explained through the steady decline of theatrical audiences from 1959 onward, which weakened the studio system and allowed for the flourishing of independent cinemas and an influx of fresh talent.6 In both commercial and independent cinemas, sex and violence became the operative modes for expressing antiestablishment politics. The symbolic burden fell on women's bodies, through whom the trope of rape would recurrently stage the abuses and turmoil of the era. Critic Sato Tadao rationalizes this through a logic of radically gendered media viewership, setting the domesticated tastes of television's housewives and families in opposition to the “cinema viewers … [who] preferred sex and violence, since they were all young bachelors dissatisfied with life and society.” Sato's hydraulics have it, moreover, that “in movie theaters, where real women could not be found, erotic and violent stimuli escalated and aggressive and self-destructive impulses ran amok.”7
If women were not just excluded but actively evacuated from the movie theater and the set in both real time and film history despite actually and actively participating in cinema (including as those actresses who supplied some of the period's most critical images), how then was it possible to be a women in Japanese cinema? How could women exist as more than mere image? Because Hamano has made it her project over the longue durée to respond rhetorically and cinematically to these questions—questions arising from tensions material, discursive, and grown in film practice—I look here to both her films and her autobiography to understand the visual, discursive, and professional tactics she has employed to respond to these evacuations. I understand Hamano's response as coming through multiple forms of reproductive labor that aim at sustaining her life as a woman in cinema. With notions of women built on interlocking ideological, mechanical, and social forms of reproduction, any transformation of “woman” requires a similarly coordinated response.8 Hamano's counter-reproductions emphasize iteration as a dimension of reproduction necessary for survival amid social austerity.
THE GENDERED DIVISION OF CINEMATIC LABOR IN POSTWAR JAPAN
The gendered division of labor generally describes the systems that normatively assign men to the public labor force and women to domestic labor, manufacturing a gender binary that insists upon compulsory heterosexuality.9 Laura Mulvey brought this language to cinema when she called on it to delineate the active-passive dyad that, within narrative film, positions men as in control of the narrative fantasy as well as the look and woman as image to-be-looked-at.10 In reading postwar Japanese cinema through Hamano, we see what is perhaps most naturalized in cinema and still left unsaid in Mulvey: a latent opposition that sets the active male director against a passive woman image. If film's work is gendered masculine, what did that mean for Hamano?
In rehearsing her origin story, Hamano emphasizes how dissatisfying she found the images of women she encountered in Japanese film as a young cinephile: either mothers or whores, they were represented as the sex that “took it” (uketomeru sei).11 Fatigued by 1950s golden-age Japanese cinema's saturation with tired archetypes of the chaste wife, mother, and daughter that had supported the nationalist ideology of the “good wife, wise mother,” Hamano aspired to become a filmmaker so that she could generate the images of active, desiring women she wanted to see.12 She was at the same time invested in correcting the notion of woman as receptacle, the image of women as “mere sex organs,” that she encountered on her introduction to the then-new pink films (generally translated as softcore pornography) while hanging out in Shinjuku amid the frenzy of the anti-Japan-US security treaty protests in 1970.13 Although Hamano knew the major studios required new hires to be college graduates and male, this only fueled her desire to become a filmmaker. When the jobs available to women in the industry seemed limited to scriptwriter and hair and makeup, given her conviction that “a film [was] a director's thing,” Hamano's determination to shift the representational paradigm demanded she seize the means of production.14
Hamano flags her project as one of revisioning by writing her autobiography, Onna ga eiga o tsukuru toki, from the position of onna. In choosing onna as the subject of her title, one of a number of possible choices for the word “woman,” Hamano indexes the project of reclamation around the discourse of onna that was at the center of Japanese women's liberation politics at the moment when she entered film in the 1970s. Though she resists association with “lib,” as women's liberation is known in Japan, her “deliberate use of onna,”’ like lib's
signaled the politicization of what was widely considered a pejorative term, with sexual or lower-class connotations. Ribu's [Lib's] reclamation of onna was linked with its rejection of legitimacy of the gender conforming roles of shūfu (housewife) and haha (mother) that were rooted in the family system.15
For lib, as it has been for Hamano, onna became “the subject who would turn to her sex as a form of power and means of liberation.”16
The emergence of pink made it possible for Hamano to enter the film industry as a woman, but this did not mean she left behind her status as onna. As an “outsider independent cinema,” “a guerrilla industry,” pink presented a more flexible labor paradigm that allowed a persistent Hamano to break in even while it maintained male dominance in the Japanese industry more broadly.17 Pink films—adult films that Jasper Sharp argues in his Behind the Pink Curtain (2008) are as much defined by their production and exhibition contexts as their content—are shot very quickly (early on, in just days) and cheaply, even to this day on 35mm film (as opposed to video), and continue to be shown in specialty theaters devoted to them.18 Often collapsed with their roughly contemporary Nikkatsu roman porno films (the erotic films popularized by major studio Nikkatsu reportedly took their name from the French roman, novelistic pornography), Hamano advocates for positioning roman porno as a brand, in contrast to pink as a genre, because the former's significantly larger budgets allowed for much sleeker productions.19 Pink neither welcomed women in production, nor did it necessarily promote more hospitable representations of women. As cinema directed toward a heterosexual male spectator, it too relied on the woman image as its raw material. In its emerging form, pink called on existing structures of industry, director, audience, architecture, and image to both uphold and revise gendered hierarchies, constructing anew woman as consumable image.20
THE WORK OF REPRODUCING SEX
If we think of Japanese cinema in terms of a gendered division of labor that puts the director in opposition to the woman-image, it helps explain how and why Hamano's reproductive labor would be so critical: for Hamano to exist at all in cinema would require her to evade the dyad that left her nowhere. As a woman, Hamano was not positioned to claim the symbolic power of the male director. As a woman Hamano also fundamentally could not be, since as image, woman had no existence. To be would then require persistent enactments of counter-reproductions that invigorated her existence as woman by enlivening the category and even image of woman. I refer to these enactments as reproductive labor, building on the work of Marxist feminist Silvia Federici.
Federici's theorization of reproductive labor intervenes to account for that “time we consume in the ‘social factory,’ preparing ourselves for work or going to work, restoring our ‘muscles, nerves, bones, and brains’ with quick snacks, quick sex, movies” as work rather than “leisure, free time, individual choice.”21 It disrupts the ideology that upholds the gendered division of labor, which recognizes as work only that which is awarded with a wage and erases the work of domestic labor (“women's work”). In calling the restorations of the “social factory” work, Federici underscores their regular enactment through reproductions understood as “the complex of activities and relations by which our life and labor are daily reconstituted.”22 The renewal that reproductive labor performs is at once psychic, emotional, energetic, biomechanical, and procreative, each part of which makes it possible to sustain a life. In calling on the language of reproductive labor to think about Hamano, I name the psychic and cinematic processes that structure her career—processes aimed at renewal, restoration, and relief from a system that renders her very existence impossible.23 These processes work to give her a viable life in cinema. Though few would call film production not-work, given that cinema as product and consumable tends to be associated with entertainment and leisure, and sex cinema all the more so, it raises the particular question of the importance of Hamano's commitment to sex cinema as the basis of her reproductive labor.
Because cinematic subjectivity and therefore “life” had been cast as male, Hamano developed her cinema around the construction of women who are full of life, in both her own directorial presence and in representation. She consistently invokes a rhetoric that understands cinematic expressions of subjectivity to translate to life. By making “subject-based works” (shutai to suru sakuhin) she offers a clear counter to structures of visuality predicated on the male gaze. She admires liberated adult video (AV) actresses, “women who become subjects having sex” who could provide her films with images of heroines who “subjectively desire.”24 That she often pairs discussions of subjectivity with praise of women who are “lively” (iki iki) articulates the association she draws between subjectivity and life. It also demonstrates the shortcut sexuality represents for her to the vigor of a subject's life.25
This attachment to cinematic forms of life comes to explain her desire to continue making films until she dies. It also contextualizes her desire to keep making films about sex between ever older people, a reference to one of her non-pink productions, Yurisai (Lily Festival, 2001), a story about septuagenarian sex and desire.26 It underscores the system Hamano is building based on interlocking associations that overwhelm cinema with associations of new life: sex in cinema itself animates a form of life; making sex cinema about septuagenarians refuses to leave the old for dead; and her own resolve to make films into her old age likewise works to sustain her vigor. Offering this chain counters the disposal of the lives of older women, dismissed as babā, a derogatory term for middle-aged and elderly woman, through a logic that even Hamano maintains “no one thinks anymore”: that the value of women's sexuality can be collapsed with biological reproduction such that those aged out of their reproductive years are considered valueless.27,Yurisai was a retort that if “people don't wither, women don't wither either” (hito wa karenai, onna mo karenai).28 To envision not withering means enacting movement, enduring into a future, continuing on. Futurity in this sense is structured critically through the medium of desire: through sex on-screen. Hamano explicitly defines septuagenarian sexuality as “life” (where sexuality equals life:「性＝生」) and as the “power of life” (sei wa ikiru chikara desu). Representing that sexuality, one “people have the right to enjoy until they die,” provides a future for Hamano's own life.29
Despite the critical reproductive labor sexuality performs in exercising and communicating subjectivity in her pink films, Hamano rarely discusses these films. In her autobiography she refers to her beginnings in pink but prioritizes detailed discussions of the ippan (non-pink) films she began making in 1998. Consequently, the hundreds of pink films that make up the majority of her filmography between her start in 1970 and her first ippan film in 1998, especially those made between 1970 and 1983, remain lost in obscurity, frustrating scholarly evaluation of their contributions.30 Perhaps pink's relative absence from her autobiography might be attributed to its status as film that, even more than other kinds, has been built metaphorically as well as actually on viewing in the dark. Pink is organized around structures of anonymity and disposability that carry over from its production to its viewing. As a fledgling industry, pink assumed its films were relatively valueless, resulting in very few early examples being archived.31 A pink film director, like a number of genre film counterparts at the time, was further understood as filling a contract role, and was rarely awarded the cultural capital given the auteur.32 Multiple scholars of pink film, notably Michael Arnold and Abé Mark Nornes, have described the space of the pink theater as one where audience members are doing everything but watching the screen (and expect that they will not be “seen”).33 As that genre and industry most privileged to take “sex head on,” pink represents at the same time a conflicted and often contradictory field, making it the critical site to examine Hamano's reproductive work.34
HAMANO'S PINK CHALLENGE TO THE PHALLOCENTRIC VISUAL REGIME
Though absented from her autobiography, the aesthetic techniques reproduced across Hamano's pink cinema represent the critical forms of its renewing labor. Here she most notably develops her systematic response to sexual ideologies that invest in reproduction as procreation and the hetero-patriarchal visual order that supports it. Hamano's cinematic techniques move away from the telos of phallic sex and insist on a sustaining female pleasure. Given the gaps in the archive noted above, my discussion of Hamano's pink cinema relies on what she reports about her earliest efforts; journalistic accounts of her work; and the films made after the late 1980s. The films she made in the earliest part of her career, from her first in 1970 until those from around 1984, when she started her own production company, Tantansha, are unavailable to the screening public, researchers, or even, according to her, Hamano herself.35 From what films are available, however, we can see that what distinguishes Hamano's pink cinema from a cinema organized around the patriarchal unconscious is its active disinterest in the phallus: it puts it away rather than showcasing it.36
Journalist Kameyama Sanae has identified three signature techniques at play in Hamano's pink films that speak to this revisioning: close-ups of women's crotches (kokan) (fig. 1); over-underwear fellatio (panfera) (fig. 2); and semen return, which returns ejaculate produced in fellatio to its recipient.37 While these and other images are often continuous with an objectifying and controlling male gaze, such techniques also perform a subtle yet regular work that invites the spectator to consider the pleasure centers of Hamano's cinema, ruled resolutely by women.38 This explains why Hamano emphasizes shots that peer up at women's crotches, with angles that elevate and centralize the crotch, exemplifying the broader paradigm of Hamano's pink cinema that emphasizes the female body's erogenous zones. While her focus on breasts can cooperate with a phallic visual regime and according to a heteronormative structure that imagines male desire as oriented toward that emblem of women's to-be-looked-at-ness that coalesces around eroticized and objectified body parts, over and upon these surfaces Hamano's soundtracks inflect the images with the films' investment in the pursuit and experience of female pleasure. Close-ups that move over the surface of breasts, framed to reduce as much distance as possible from the kino-eye, are constantly overlaid with high-pitched frequencies of female titillation. Steady, rhythmic choruses of female cries code the valued pleasure centers as overwhelmingly feminine.39 We are, again and again, brought into close proximity to the buttocks, insistently approaching the genitalia, yet reminding us that it is not the penis that the camera seeks.
Hamano's departure from the grammar of pink is sufficient to prompt Jasper Sharp to evaluate it as a “leering brand of porn,” one that for him makes it hard to detect a woman's presence behind the camera. He explains this within a thinly veiled misogynistic complaint that films such as her most popular and well-known series Yaritai Hitozumatachi (Greedy Housewives, 2003) “offer a view of female sexuality that is so over-the-top that it comes across as threatening,” with “sensuous, imposing man-eaters clearly in control over their desires … writh[ing] on top of their partners, lying prone and exhausted between their thighs, while the camera remains fixed on the ecstatic expressions on their faces and the near-impossible gymnastics of their bodies.”40 Hamano's cinema's threat is that it represents a woman's cinema.
For Miryam Sas, the presence of panfera and the proliferation of dildos rather than hardcore's actual (honban) penises prompt her to argue that rather than categorize pink as softcore, we would do better to read its obsession with making visible as “censored hard core”:
The organization of the sexuality portrayed is aimed at maximum (allowable) visibility and a “thrusting, jabbing” form of sexuality for the most part in a direct line from hard core. … This remains a phallic, “thrusting,” teleological form of sexuality: sex acts include numerous instances of (usually over-underwear) oral sex, and (simulated) penetration (often with the woman on top).41
While Hamano is resolutely invested in making visible, the sex she represents is neither thrusting nor phallic. Even if the over-underwear fellatio seen in so many of her films draws insistent attention to the phallus, which Sas is right to say is encouraged by the crispness of the white briefs so often cradling the penises of the actors, when we consider the list of trademarks Kameyama assembled, together with related visual (and, critically, aural) motifs, they press upon us that the phallus being lovingly caressed is the contained phallus.42 Hamano's heroines take pleasure in a phallus that has no recourse to exposure. It will not emerge, nor will it ejaculate for or before our eyes. Even if the white of the underpants flags its presence, it is rarely displayed erect. The active restriction of its movement, controlled by the hands of Hamano's actresses, undermines its power. Often that very whiteness, in scenes of heterosexual fellatio, serves merely as a canvas to absorb the stains of red lipstick, a reminder of the menstrual blood that so often codes gendered pollution, but which radically disrupts the phallic order presumed of hardcore, and that Sas locates again in Hamano's cinema (fig. 3). The white briefs offer an occasion of écriture féminine, making a writing tablet of the briefs otherwise thought of as dressing to be discarded on the way to sex, rather than an accoutrement in the service of it.43
In the aforementioned Yaritai Hitozumatachi series we find many examples of Hamano's use of the techniques identified by Kameyama to displace phallic power. In the first of these films, Kei (accomplished AV actress Kagami Reiko), initiates a friend frustrated in her marriage into a world of sexual exploits. Along the way, Kei leaves her mark on the white underwear of one recipient of fellatio. Later, she and Aya (the friend, played by an actress known only as Yuki) consistently hold down the penises they fellate, controlling and driving whatever movement permitted the member. Departing from Hamano's convention, in a sequence of progressively more paranoiac fantasies, Aya's husband first imagines the horrors of Aya pleasuring herself (and thus not requiring him), then providing fellatio to a disembodied phallus, then finally having sex with two men. Each of the husband's fantasy projections of the phallus feature it freed from the confines of the underwear, albeit with flesh-colored dildos substituting for actual penises. The phallus's freedom of movement is here figured as its threat (interestingly, to his pleasure), a reading clarified by the rare prominence of ongoing, though still quiet, groans of male pleasure present only in the husband's imagined projections of his wife's sexual encounters (someone else's pleasure thus takes away from his own).
In contrast, scenes driven by the two women feature sex sutured together through the recurrent soundtrack of the women's trills of pleasure, dominant in every other scene of fellatio, exceeding, blocking out, and rendering irrelevant the occasional sounds of breath or climax of its recipient. Even fellatio in Hamano's universe happens in the service of female pleasure, with actors used, as Hamano writes in her autobiography, as props and supplements. The sex we see in Yaritai Hitozumatachi and across Hamano's pink cinema comes much closer to representing what Bini Adamczak has termed circlusion, language offered to reinscribe those sexual pleasures and practices arbitrarily assigned passivity in ongoing celebrations of a penetrative economy of sex, with an acknowledgement of the activity of outstretched hands and the hug of orifices that quite literally push back at the patriarchal imaginaries that so often rule sex.44
The “semen return” unpopular with Hamano's actors likewise works to refashion the grammar of the money shot.45 Where hardcore takes great pains to visualize the explosive ejaculation from the penis, Hamano developed a structure where after denying the visual display of ejaculation, those fluids supposed to be indicative of male pleasure are instead given to him. It is not the mere fact of return that matters, but rather that the slow, deliberate display of return creates a circuit within the sexual exchange that counters phallic sex's telos. Silencing the actor's climax negates orgasm as the main event of sex (supported by the soundtrack's emphasis not on a single moment of female orgasm, but instead on a sustained spectrum of noises of female pleasure) and the return of the semen insists that fellatio is not a gift for a woman to receive, but an exchange she participates in. Reproduction here operates as redistribution. When Kei of Yaritai Hitozumatachi returns the fluids of the sex volunteer-providing sensei to whom she has been introduced in order to access sexual pleasure, he can hardly mask his discomfort at the slow trace of a line she draws from his lower abdomen to his mouth in the return. Displaying this slow action against an unusually silent background, Hamano asks us to deliberate on the grammar of representations of fellatio as well as their contribution to the constitution of sexual practices offscreen. Given the pedagogical setting of this scene, Hamano also refuses the line that overdetermines the patriarchal position of instruction. This circuit upsets both the associations that cast men as active bearers of the look as well as those controlling the narrative of the sexual scene. Kei's return offers a leaky, seeping, quiet fluidity that insists on sticking around—even, and perhaps especially, when it (and perhaps also she) is not welcome.
This liquidity is in fact a larger fixture of Hamano's cinema, operating through the soundtrack to supply the adhesive necessary to bring on-screen bodies and movements more proximate to one another and the spectator than the image alone could. Central to this liquidity is Hamano's privileging of the tongue and its enunciations in representations of sex. Even when scenes of penetration or fellatio avoid display of the phallus, Hamano consistently puts as much of the surface area of the tongue as the camera can feasibly capture outside of the mouth, regardless of the players or the sex act. Paradoxically, maximal visual capture of the surface area of the tongue, especially as it reaches out for the bodies around it, builds distance into the visual grammar of the image. It emphasizes the chasm that separates one body from another. However, in capturing and emphasizing the tongue's reach, Hamano materializes a visuality of desire as that which reaches ever forward, avoiding the endpoint of climax. Hamano's pink films are filled in with salivary articulations, a soundscape that emphasizes the liquid eruptions arising from all orifices, a liquidity that surrounds the sex act that also underscores at once what is shared as it passes between membranes in the sexual encounter as well as its sloppy spillover. The liquid expression of the tongue and other orifices is as tied to an investment in female sexuality as the soundtracks that privilege women's cries and pants of pleasure.
The slurpiness that characterizes Hamano's representation of the discovery of the autoerotic in Chikan Densha: Ecchi ga Ippai (Groper Train: A Whole Lotta Sexy, 1988) links these articulations together within an economy of liquidity. There, anticipation of sexual activity is built on a close-up of the lips, glistening with gloss. Vibrators accidentally sent to the secretary of the manga company that publishes a young woman's series on a character Lil' Vibe (Vaibu-chan) occasions both the display of tongue and a slurpy accompaniment to her moans of pleasure. Those lubricated gurgles that emerge in the contact between sex toy and body prompt the slimy slide of her own juices, drawn from the erogenous zone of her genitals along her stomach much like the scenes of fellatio previously described, until it arrives to a goopy chorus as it paints the surface of her face surrounding her mouth. The tongue slips easily between oral, aural, and visual registers, sutured together through the display of a slimy trail. Whether put on display, aurally referenced, or a matter of aural/oral slippage, the tongue serves as a convenient tool to redistribute sex's labors within a cinematic economy concerned with reproducing non-phallic, circlusive sex.
Hamano most explicitly comments on the convergence of the phallic economy of sex with the reproductive labor demanded by the labor market in Kyonyū Sanshimai Nikuasari (The Three Busty Sisters' Meat-Hunt, 1999). With this film, Hamano directly implicates the state in reproductions of gendered labor with a low-angle establishing shot that looks up at the unmistakable monolith that is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government complex in Shinjuku. At the base of Japan's most recognizable phallic icon (fig. 4), the titular three sisters sell meatball lunch boxes by day that provide the salaryman-bureaucrat with the victuals necessary to continue his labor, and, in the warm smiles of the pretty women serving him, the fantasy apparatus necessary to motivate his work. The three sisters make good on the economic opportunity afforded by the easy slippage between serving food and fulfilling men's fantasies and desires by running the Mona Lisa bar as their “night work.”46 Their most valued bento customers in fact receive discount coupons to their bar. When the salarymen that frequent them by day cash in on their discount coupons and visit the Mona Lisa, they appear ill-equipped to confront the three sisters' sexual availability, sweating profusely and rendered mute. As the women present their bodies to them in a side room where they offer a first-time complimentary sex service, the men flop about like fish, immobilized and infantile.
This utilization of the male body as dummy is reinforced when the youngest sister, Kyoko, makes a rare offer of fellatio to Taichi-san (Yoshida Yūken, well known for his ippan work in such popular films as Poppoya , Rirī shushu no subete [All About Lily Chou-Chou, 2001], and Kibō no kuni [The Land of Hope, 2012]). Resistant to the commodification of sex, Kyoko offers this to Taichi-san as an expression of her romantic feelings for him. Yet his body remains limp while receiving fellatio. Contrasted with the moving, feeling, and often writhing female bodies, the stiff mechanical male body is put on display to reveal how immobilizing and stuck an economic system upholding and invested in the phallus can be. The soundtrack corroborates this vision of the men: messy, slobbery, leakily out of control. Even while they offer the women very little, this does not deter the two older sisters' enthusiasm for their collaboration in sexual service. This film's treatment of the semen return finds the two sisters performing fellatio, each in turn, then kissing one another, swapping their client's semen (fig. 5). This is less in the service of delivering salacious imagery vis-à-vis the breaking of the incest taboo (and occupying the male fantasy of not just sex with more than one woman, but with beautiful and, as the title reminds us, busty sisters) and more about ensuring that the sticky visuality of reproductive flows will keep each of their public-private labors circulating.
Kyoko, who sits out the group sex scene, dreams in the sequence that follows that her genitals glow with light, a life and knowledge source that her sisters have yet to recognize, though they too possess it (fig. 6). The film performs this reading by including images of the two sisters lying naked on their beds with light glowing from their genitals while they lie sleeping, unaware. The dream drives Kyoko to pursue her goal of self-reliance, albeit enabled by her lover Taichi's gift of 100 million yen. Rather than understanding this as an economic exchange, we are instead invited to situate both the fellatio Kyoko offers and the money he gives her as participating in an alternate economy of righteous redistribution. In this redistribution, Taichi steals and gifts to Kyoko monies his colleagues had intended for investment in an expansion of the Mona Lisa (an investment brokered by one of Kyoko's older sisters between her and a colleague of Taichi's) when he is entrusted to deliver them. Having righteously wielded her sexuality, Kyoko is deserving of the material means that enable her auto-reproduction.
Seizing this righteousness seems to provide a general consciousness raising, as the film returns at its conclusion to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government buildings, with the eldest sister arriving at the same place that the film began, this time with one of the businessmen recast as her modest partner in selling bento. What the film thus offers is a fantasy of the reform of social reproduction, one that results in self-authoring, autonomy, and partnership rather than exploitation and consumption. This is sentimentally sealed by the final segment that closes the film away from the center of Tokyo—and Japan's—bureaucracy, at the orphanage Kyoko has created. Taichi approaches the building with a few dozen red roses for Kyoko in recognition of her achievements. Value itself has been reconfigured, borrowing on the scripts of the marketplace but recasting it in terms of recognition and appreciation. The film stages the fantasy that Kyoko's domestic work—a social reproduction project that reroutes care through affiliative and necessary structures of support—be recognized as work in a circuit of mutual care.
While these films offer only a small glimpse into Hamano's cinema, they collectively tell the story of desiring women whose lives are sustained by circluding phallic social, sexual, visual, and financial economies. As an exercise in developing a cinematic grammar that is not so much utterly different from a phallic cinema as cushioned all around it (as Adamczak offers, “‘gulfing,’ ‘circling,’ ‘gulping,’ or simply: ‘nutting”’), Hamano performs a reproductive labor that enacts women's presence from within existing structures.47 This might also help explain why despite the extraordinary volume of her work, she might still go unrecognized for that work.
ON STILL NOT BEING SEEN: HAMANO'S AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL COMPLAINT
Where the iterations of her films make claims on and to structures, Hamano's autobiography necessarily concerns itself with the way these structures bear on her. The autobiography first identifies reproductive labor as that method most suited to responding to the gendered conditions of the Japanese film industry. In keeping with genre, the autobiography shapes the narrative of her reproductive labor as a writing that brings herself into existence in cinema. Whereas her cinema works by remaking the visual order, the autobiography's production of her story reframes her project in terms of a desire for visibility. The distinction here has to do with what Herman Gray has written about as the “wager” of visibility politics, which invests in the hope that when marginalized and degraded subjects have access to the means of media production, social change will result.48
Given the genre, it is not surprising that Hamano's autobiography is organized around what she refers to as turning points (tenki)—moments that motivated her call to cinematic action. While in the autobiography these are intercut with stories of women she has identified with, in other contexts she avoids aligning herself with other women, preserving a focus on the hostility of the industry and the individual and exceptional position from which she responded. The autobiography is laden with expressions of surprise that mark the repeated foreclosures on Hamano's desire to be able to identify with or as a woman. This ranges from being “flabbergasted” when wronged to ordinary expressions of surprise (omoigakenai) when things do not go as anticipated. But no such language surrounds her description of having spent months at age twenty trying to convince Wakamatsu Productions, in which she had identified a model for radical and independent filmmaking, to hire her—when they say they have no need for a woman assistant director; that “since women have periods, they can't put their hands on the sacred clapperboard”; or the audacity with which she was asked, “Can women even understand film stories?”49 In the context of the film industry, to a woman twenty years of age, this harassment was apparently unremarkable.
What does prove upsetting is the sexism she encountered on set because it positioned her as first and foremost a woman (the image she disidentified with), disregarding her status as image maker. Her surprise betrays that she had expected to be treated differently as a staff member but remained stuck between imaginaries of women she could not reconcile because neither seemed like her. This came to a head in a story she often repeats, when one day shooting on location for Adachi Masao's Seiyūgi (Sekkusu Gokko) (Sex Game, 1969), with no other female staff on set, she was assigned to share a room with the film's lead actress. This was at odds with Hamano's sense that she should bunk with her equivalents on staff. However, the worse violation—what she describes as “the unthinkable event”—came in the middle of the night, when the actress and the film's lead actor started having sex in the room. She asked them to stop because it was late and she had to work early in the morning, but they laughed and, teasing her, continued. She slept in the hallway, finding all this injurious because it threatened to disrupt her work (that work recognized as work), and the next morning she complained to Adachi. Rather than respond sympathetically Adachi scolded her for interfering with the actors and demanded she apologize. Utterly disturbed and dismayed, she fled, walking eight hours back to Wakamatsu Productions' Harajuku offices, and quit after Wakamatsu likewise scolded her.50
This story has become central to Hamano's criticism of Wakamatsu and the pink industry she came into in the 1970s. It is reproduced because, while brief, it brought Hamano into direct conflict with those she did not expect to injure her; she assumed workplace hierarchies would trump her gender. The industry's evaluation of the actress as material to use bears on Hamano's incredulousness, her laughter unsettling Hamano because she, otherwise naturalized as material to be used as woman-image, forced Hamano into subjection. In the moment, Hamano was reduced to a woman. Her surprise—at being subjected to the actors' liaison, then at Adachi and Wakamatsu's lack of support of her position—and its trauma help explain her political convictions in filmmaking, especially her resolve to make a woman-centered cinema. Here the contradictions of the day on Adachi's set become more pronounced.
Hamano subsequently describes sleeping with a knife to ward off sexual advances from other staff members, men exposing themselves to her on set, and regulating her periods long before the pill was legally available in Japan to prevent menstruation on set.51 Yet this first experience working for Adachi is rehearsed in countless other interviews and publications. When Hamano takes aim at Adachi and Wakamatsu, she does so as much to critique their gender politics as to make claim to her own subjectivity. Her fantasy of a woman-centered cinema critiques pink and radical 1960s politics' reliance on violence against women's bodies to reimagine a femininity that would also not do her a violence.
The second critical turning point Hamano recounts threatened to strip the subjectivity she thought she had gained as a director after nearly thirty years of working in the industry. As she relays, in 1996 the inaugural Tokyo Women's Film Festival (then the Kanebo International Woman's Film Week) recognized Tanaka Kinuyo as Japan's most prolific woman filmmaker, though she had only made six films. Once again, Hamano describes herself as “flabbergasted.” Of course, as her more than 300 films attest, if it is prolificness being rewarded, Hamano is in a class unto herself. For her the announcement meant that her existence as a Japanese female director was being denied—she did not exist, and her thirty-year, 300-film history in pink film did not count.52 She feared she would “not remain” (nokorenai) in Japanese film history, that she would not imprint herself in it.53 Hamano frames this as a problem of life, reminding us of the reproductive labor enacted with each film. The lack of recognition of her 300 films, their utter illegibility, in this moment translated to her invisibility. In this way, the festival inaugurated a rubric of value invested in visible forms of life. Recognizing that as long as she made pink films she would continue to be overlooked, she decided in that moment to make non-pink cinema “as evidence of [her] existence.”54 She decided moreover to author an autobiography to write herself into a history that otherwise threatened to deny and forget her.
Hamano supposed that pink's taboo sexual content explained her invisibility. However, it is also the case that Tanaka Kinuyo was not only a well-established actress before she began making films, but directed during Japanese cinema's golden age, within the studio system and alongside figures who by the time of the award were regarded as some of Japan's most revered cinematic giants.55 Tanaka was thus already firmly located within the film establishment and set up to be seen when she made the move to directing.
For Hamano, the great upset of the Tokyo Women's Film Festival was confronting that she might not be recognized as a director at all. Since the beginning of her career, her very inclusion in the industry had come at the price of acquiescing to her position within it as qualified, to accepting colleagues on set calling her “Mother” as a twenty-something assistant director and then director.56 Now, after a career spent enduring reminders she was a woman director and asked to absorb all the injuries that qualification inflicted, she was not even being rewarded with recognition for sticking around through it all. The slight took away the unique position she thought she had carved out for herself, especially since the 1980s, when starting Tantansha (her production company) had allowed her to make the films she wanted, writing, directing, and producing the majority of them. She may have been working at the margins of Japanese cinema insofar as pink was located outside the major studio system, but the guerrilla-style filmmaking—with its brisk shooting schedules and small budgets—had also given her finely honed skills. The lack of recognition was also undermining her authorship by disregarding her mastery of her craft.57
Clearly, what most upset Hamano was the announcement that Tanaka Kinuyo was the most prolific Japanese woman director, since in actuality she was not. Tanaka's award publicized that a life like Hamano's could be erased, confronting her with the glaring contradiction that her aggressive cinematic productivity and proliferation of works were somehow still insufficient to amount to a legible form of publicity. This event troubled the cinematic reproduction that Hamano had seen as her solution, making clear that no number of films (especially pink) would add up to publicize her existence. It thus seemed to debunk the logic that writing cinema as a director would write her into existence before a seeing public. The possibility of public recognition catalyzed a desire to be seen and consequently redefined the public she aimed to reach. If her earliest motivations for filmmaking came out of a desire to transform images to write a viable life for herself as woman into existence, this event collapsed those desires, forcing Hamano to confront her desire to find her own life in cinema. Rather than transform the image of woman to render it human, this event asked her to reconfigure the terms she saw woman on to permit herself to be seen as one in order to be seen in the first place. It forced her to confront that even if she reproduced images of desiring women, if she were to continue delivering them for consumption to the pink audience, she still might not upset the hegemony of an economic system that limited that life in the first place. It forced her to become onna in a reproduction with no clear end.
Having recurrently resisted forms of solidarity or consensus, having disidentified with feminism and women's liberation, and having made claim to being a woman only when it was figured as solitary, in this moment, Hamano recognized her need to render the audience of the Tokyo International Women's Film Festival hers in an effort to make visible her labor and her life. Of course, the fact of her 300 films made evident that Hamano had long had an audience. Her output and viewership were so substantial, in fact, that complaints came in about too many of her films being in theaters at the same time, so she took on the directorial pseudonym Matoba Chise, which she has used to distribute her films alongside “Hamano Sachi” since 1997.58 Yet what she sought was not simply a consuming public, a public desiring her films, but a public desiring her. Once she went on the road with her ippan films, Hamano would come to find, much to her surprise, that women had been watching and desiring her pink films all along. However, to hear this affirmed that pink guaranteed her anonymity, as measured not by audiences but by public structures of visibility, recognition, and legibility. The only way she could be seen publicly, she realized, would be to make non-pink films that could be shown to a broad audience at festivals.
Her announcement of her plan to make an ippan film represented a critical turning point in her career because, out of this, she identified a public we might most usefully understand as an intimate public. Lauren Berlant defines this in The Female Complaint (2008) as carrying a promise of belonging that offers the “relief” of encountering others assumed to “already share the same worldview.” Berlant's intimate public is built around the consumption of texts that mediate members' negotiation of feeling “collectively and structurally unprivileged” and the desire to feel as if they are not alone.59 Hamano narrated her own very similar negotiation from a position as producer and, with her foray into ippan film, aimed to manufacture a text that would hail a public to share in the process. For Hamano, the autobiography works to secure, or to renew, that intimate public, perhaps to supplant the many earlier disappointments she had faced when seeking solidarity in the industry.
Hamano first tapped into this intimate public when she devoted her first ippan film to the life and literature of the early twentieth-century writer Osaki Midori. That Hamano solicited her public through rewriting the biography of another prolific female writer threatened by obscurity worked to bring both Osaki and herself to life. Identifying with Osaki resolved much of the conflict that she so often negotiated around identifying with onna.60 Hamano's achievement of this public was facilitated by identifying an already existing and extendable intimate public: those invested in women's literature who want to see it disseminated and find particular advantage in its cinematic adaptation and distribution. That this cooperated with regionalism in Japan—that she could go to film in Tottori, Osaki's hometown, which likewise shares an investment in seeing its citizens represented on the big screen—not only expanded this eager and ready audience, but ultimately provided her with the material support essential to the production. One of her backers, a woman originally from Tottori, organized groups of mostly female supporters from around Japan to microfinance and provide volunteer labor to make possible that first ippan film, Dai-nana kankai hōkō: Osaki Midori o sagashite (In Search of a Lost Writer: Wandering in the World of the Seventh Sense, 1998). This intimate public promised Hamano not only an infrastructure for reproducing the psychic support she sought, but also a stream of reproducible capital that continues to make possible the production and distribution of her ippan films. Explaining her resistance to feminism up until this point in a single anecdote about a young feminist shaming her on a train, Hamano found in the material support supplied to her in the making of this film a “sisterhood” with which she could not previously identify.61
A REPRODUCTION WITHOUT END
In an interview I conducted with her at the Musashino-city Gender Equality Week Project on June 23, 2013, Hamano promised to continue making films until she died. Yet however much intention structures her autobiography, she did not express this as a matter of choice or will. Cinema is Hamano's existence, her life. Every film she makes writes herself a little bit more into being. If Karl Marx's model of reproduction aims at the renewal of laboring bodies and Federici's folds into this women's domestic labor, cinema here is shown to perform a crucial labor to perform Hamano's life. In each iteration of Hamano's reproductive returns to cinema, she not only evinces that she is working in the first place—impossibly working as a woman authoring cinema—but she continues to do so by challenging the gendered division of cinematic labor.
In earlier iterations of this essay, I imagined that Hamano's labor would never be finished because the system would not yield to her. I see things differently now. Her pink cinema plays within the system but also plays according to rules both visible and invisible to the hegemonic structures of visuality and employment practice. In this sense, for her to reproduce without end is as much about pleasure as about the iteration of a life still in process. Each pink film she has made has renewed Hamano's life as a maker in cinema. And her particular configuration of sex in this cinema has been crucial to giving her life as onna. Each of her woman-centered films has given cinematic form to a lively—a nourished and nourishing—woman, who has become ever more full of life with each renewal. Each renewal has brought her into existence regardless of whether this has been known, recognized, or even felt. Each articulation enacts a crucial reproductive labor.
Hamano's ippan work is doing something else. The ippan films, as the autobiography lays bare, came into existence out of a desire for recognition within visible, legible structures of value. The autobiography conceives of the value of its subject along similar terms, assessing her worth through an optic of recognition. However, the gender trouble Hamano has been addressing, though it may involve a lack of recognition, does not represent a problem of legibility in the sense that the gender hierarchy she combats and operates within is not one that would vanish if we only saw it.62 It is both here and known. This is what makes Hamano's pink work so powerful: it demonstrates what is both seen and unseen in the image, and it asks no permission to begin again.63