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Roman porno genre revived in Japan

Nikkatsu studio reboots a cinema form used as a launchpad for helmers

TOKYO — Nikkatsu is reviving its signature “roman porno” genre, on which many mainstream helmers cut their teeth, after a 22-year gap.

The first two pics in the “Roman Porno Returns” series are remakes of classics — “Apartment Wife: Affair in the Afternoon” and “From the Back or From the Front” — but brought up to date in both setting and story. The pics will get a theatrical release in February, as well as being offered on PPV. The target aud is adults of both sexes.

First launched in 1971 after the Nikkatsu studio — the oldest in Japan — underwent a financial near-death experience, roman porno pics were softcore features made with bigger budgets and more studio resources than the then porno industry norm.

Directors were given wide latitude to tell stories and develop characters as long as they fulfilled the minimum requirement of four bed scenes per hour.

Roman porno pics were regularly ranked in critics’ top ten lists in the 1970s, while launching the careers of many young directors who went on to successful mainstream careers, including Oscar winner Yojiro Takita (“Departures”).

Nikkatsu turned out roman porno pics for 17 years, until 1988, when the video revolution and stricter censorship requirements did them in.

Apartment Wife: Affair in the Afternoon” is a remake of the first-ever roman porno pic, released in 1971. The helmer is Shun Nakahara, a roman porno veteran who turned to legit features in 1990 with the critically acclaimed hit “The Cherry Orchard.” Starring is stage actress Sakiko Takao.

From the Back or From the Front” is a remake of a 1980 pic, helmed by newcomer Shoichiro Masumoto and starring model-turned-actress Tomomi Miyauchi. Both pics will preem in Tokyo’s Eurospace theater, starting with “Apartment” on Feb. 13 and continuing with “Back” on Feb. 27.

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