Delightfully ribald look at artists and models, Japanese-style, "O-Yo" is a fitting companion to the classic "Utamaro and His Five Women," with comedy and eros turned up a few notches. Unusual combination of slapstick, kinky sex, high culture and period detail make this a rarified treat, standing apart from other potential exports.

Delightfully ribald look at artists and models, Japanese-style, “O-Yo” is a fitting companion to the classic “Utamaro and His Five Women,” with comedy and eros turned up a few notches. Unusual combination of slapstick, kinky sex, high culture and period detail make this a rarified treat, standing apart from other potential exports. Ingredients will make DVD distribbers cry, “Oh, yeah!”

Tale, set in the 1920s, beautifully lensed in rich B&W by Yasushi Sasakibara, was taken from memoirs of real-life rivals Yumeji Takehisa (Naoto Takenaka) and bondage specialist Seiun Ito (“Shall We Dance” star Tetsuya Kumakawa), who both employed beautiful model Kaneyo Sasaki (Aki Shibuya). With most of pic taking place in graceful old provincial towns, the model reflects this setting, as she’s something of a bumpkin ready to take on what the 20th century has to offer. The two painters (one is a very graphic artist) also rep paths old and new, Asian and European, but pic doesn’t take sides. Cleverly helmed by vet Ikuo Sekimoto, “O-Yo” is a playful look at Japan at a fascinating crossroads. The leads all have some background in dance, adding frisson to the proceedings.

O-Yo

Japan

Production

A Shochiku Co. presentation of a Sekimoto Productions (Tokyo) production, in association with Cinemagic. Produced by Kunihiko Yokobatake. Directed, edited by Ikuo Sekimoto. Screenplay, Sekimoto, Yutaka Akiyama, based on Oniroku Dan's novel "The Group of Outside Way."

Crew

Camera (B&W), Yasushi Sasakibara; music, Michiru Oshima; production designer, Kunihiko Yokobatake; costume designer, Junko Katsumata. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival, Nov. 8, 2002. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Tatsuya Kumakawa, Aki Shibuya, Naoto Takenaka, Kohtaro Satomi.
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