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Theme Tuesday - Meiko Kaji - Stray Cat Rock series

The intense stare and charisma of Japanese actress Meiko Kaji has compelled me to explore her extensive filmography for December 2018.

To get some potential misconceptions out of the way, the Stray Cat Rock series is not so much a series as a collection of movies that have little to do with each other except for many of the same actors and most likely crew. They are low-budget yet visually exciting and flashy movies with tons of style to compensate for their somewhat mundane stories. While the two directors (Yasaharu Hasebe and Toshiya Fujita) responsible for the series would be confined mostly to genre movies including the so-called “pinku” films, they would compensate for their limitations with a liberal dose of sex and violence as well as youthful energy, fashion and catchy music.

These movies are also ensemble pieces, which means Meiko Kaji, the reason I wanted to do this series, is relegated to supporting roles for the first two. In the first outing, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Korean-Japanese singer Akiko Wada is the definite star, with tons of girl crush potential in her androgynous look and nonchalant attitude. The second, Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo, shares only the title in common. The only reason I guess it was called that was because actors from Wild Jumbo and the follow-up Sex Hunter at the same time and would be shuttled back and forth between filming locations.

These movies were never meant to be great works of an up-and-coming auteur, but at their best they are colorful pieces of extended pop art and iconography. If you wanted to just get a taste of this series, the best would have to be Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter. The third in the series is what you would visualize what these movies would be about the most. It most clearly sets up the dynamic of girls against the world and gives the character real stakes: namely, their lives and their identities. Also, Meiko Kaji finally gets a chance to really shine on screen as the leader of her girl gang.

 

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