If the term "porn auteur" would be appropriate for anyone, it's probably 72-year-old Tadashi Yoyogi, the fascinating subject of "Yoyochu in the Land of the Rising Sex."

If the term “porn auteur” would be appropriate for anyone, it’s probably 72-year-old Tadashi Yoyogi, the fascinating subject of “Yoyochu in the Land of the Rising Sex.” Helmed by Yoyogi’s former apprentice Masato Ishioka (“Scout-Man”), the docu is an engaging overview of postwar Japanese erotic cinema told through the experiences of one of its most distinctive and successful practitioners. Released theatrically in Japan in February, pic’s combo of racy footage and intelligent insight should help it penetrate offshore homevid and specialty broadcast markets..

Born Teruo Watanabe in 1938, Yoyogi, known publicly as “Yoyochu” and still turning out a dozen films a year, is nothing like the sleazy operator one might expect from a resume including titles such as “Psycho Hypnotic Ecstasy” and “Horny Amateur Wife.” An affable sort who takes his work seriously, Yoyogi discusses his colorful life and wildly fluctuating financial fortunes with intelligence, candor and a good deal of dry wit.

Docu launches with an entertaining recap of Yoyogi moving into “pink” (softcore) movies in the early 1960s after a brief career as a flower arranger and a scary stint managing a mob-owned strip club. Working for the World Eiga and Prima Planner companies, Yoyogi established his reputation with “High School Geisha,” a major hit that sparked an obscenity case against Nikkatsu, a floundering major studio that saved itself from collapse by subcontracting Prima Planner to produce highly profitable skin flicks.

The upshot was a six-year legal brawl, during which Yoyogi faced the prospect of prison before support from respected directors Nagisa Oshima and Shohei Imamura helped quash the case. Citing his legal troubles as inspiration to examine explicitly Japanese sexuality, Yoyogi moved into hardcore pics at around the same time homevideo appeared. Capitalizing on the then-astronomical rental fees for videotapes, Yoyogi directed a series of a video-to-35mm theatrical hits that shot nude model Kyoko Aizome to national stardom.

Although a little gushing with his offscreen conversation, helmer Ishioka succeeds in extracting the highly personal motives governing Yoyogi’s directions in the 500-plus movies he’s made, most importantly his focus on female sexuality and desire to connect with femme viewers. Collaborating with performers on concepts and execution, Yoyogi achieved spectacular success with the long-running “Onanie” (masturbation) series and the written-by-women “Lewd Performance” collection. Others films, in which women were hypnotized and sent into trance-like states have been less well received. The general feeling among female performers appearing in the docu is summed up by Saki Kurihara who says, “You grasped something important on his set.”

Peppered with testimony by key adult-video industry figures acknowledging Yoyogi as a groundbreaker deserving his reputation as “the seeker of truth in the sex industry,” docu is always interesting, although the pace drags a little toward the end.

Production values are modest but effective. Clips show plenty of raunch, but mask out XXX-rated parts of the frame. Tech work is fine.

Yoyochu in the Land of the Rising Sex

Docu - Japan

Production

A Star Sands release of a Gold View, Star Sands production. (International sales: Gold View, Tokyo.) Produced by Kiyo Joo, Mitsunobu Kawamura. Directed by Masato Ishioka.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen, HD), Ishioka, Ken Nishikawa, Kyuhei Tsubakihara; editors, Ishioka, Toshihide Fukano; music, Hideo Goto; sound (stereo), Yasushi Takizawa. Reviewed at Busan Film Festival (Wide Angle), Oct. 25, 2011. (Also in Rome, Hawaii film festivals.) Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Tadashi Yoyogi, Koji Okumura, Hikaru Kito, Satoru Makimura, Masanori Saito, Mina Kashiwagi, Genji Nakamura, Saki Kurihara, Toru Muranishi.
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