Who says there is no justice for mavericks? Certainly, the case of Kôji Wakamatsu is cause for celebration: The prolific punk of radical Japanese sexploitation cinema made a magnificent comeback in 2008, with his 100th film, United Red Army. A clear-eyed yet empathic epic about the failure of Japan’s armed revolutionary movement, formed during the student protests of the ’60s, it was a deeply personal project for Wakamatsu, whose angry, violent but also remarkably lyrical cheapies — making ample use of the creative freedom possible within production for Japan’s soft-core market, as long as you provided sex scenes, too — were steeped in radical politics as well. The Cinefamily’s monthlong “Sexfilmrevolution” series graciously provides an opportunity for reappraisal of Wakamatsu’s early work, films whose stylistic brio few filmmakers could match. Of particular note: two double bills, each pairing an (in)famous sexploitation classic with an absolute rarity. All clock in around the one-hour mark, although they spew enough ideas for several movies.
Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (1962) portrays a youthful encounter on a rooftop in scorched ‘Scope and bleak black-and-white: She keeps getting raped; he has massacred his parents; their despairing discussions and violent acts are intermittently punctuated by headlong camera swoops, bloody color inserts or a chanteuse warbling “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” (Wakamatsu, who hired Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke to score United Red Army, has a knack for working with progressive musicians.) This nihilist-minimalist milestone shows on November 14, along with Running in Madness, Dying in Love (1969), about a revolutionary on the run after killing his cop brother: Writer-director Masao Adachi, a Wakamatsu mainstay until he joined the Japanese Red Army himself, scripted this psychedelic-provincial tour de force according to his “landscape theory,” which posited that all scenery is an expression of the ruling power. Adachi similarly collaborated with Japanese New Wave master Nagisa Ôshima, whose work sometimes intriguingly intersects with Wakamatsu’s — a fact not lost on acclaimed theorist Noel Burch, who crowned Wakamatsu’s cold-fever shocker Violated Angels (1967) a masterpiece. Screening on November 21 (with 1969’s little-seen bizarro cult item Violent Virgin), Violated Angels — reportedly shot within a week to capitalize on Richard Speck’s Chicago nurse massacre — is a chamber play about a deranged young man killing a group of nurses, until he regresses into a state of childish oblivion. Bracketed by political images, it is claustrophobic, crude, disturbing and also strangely sad. Above all, like nearly every Wakamatsu’s film, it brims over with unforgettable moments. (Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre; Saturdays at 7 p.m., through Nov. 21; cinefamily.org)