In this intensely intimate film, documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara visits his ex-girlfriend Miyuki and records her new relationships.
“Even in this era of reality television and docu-fiction, only rarely has a filmmaker turned the camera upon their own private life with such candor and intimacy as Kazuo Hara in the aptly named Extreme Private Eros. While ostensibly focused upon his former love Miyuki Takeda as she comes to terms with her own bisexuality and intense distrust of traditional family structures, Extreme Private Eros also offers a portrait of Hara as a jealous and resentful ex for whom filming serves as a kind of harsh self-therapy. The film was, in fact, made in close collaboration with Takeda, who invited Hara to follow her to Okinawa where she had gone with their child to live with her girlfriend. Takeda also asked Hara to document her giving birth unassisted to another child, the result of her relationship with a black American GI. Adding further emotional complexity to the project, Hara invited his new girlfriend and producer Sachiko Kobayashi to assist in the production – resulting in one of the film’s most indelible scenes, a stinging conversation between the two women about Hara as artist, lover and human being.”
“The film is a documentation of Miyuki’s attempts to articulate her erotic desires, as well as of her quest for individuality. However, given the fraught relationship between filmmaker and subject in Extreme Private Eros, the documentary does not just revel in self-discovery, but also betrays a growing sense of disconsolation. While it is ostensibly a record of Miyuki’s life – presented in her voice via a series of monologues and in snippets of conversation – we are also made aware of Hara’s point of view. The sense of intimacy stems from their three-year marriage, but is also tinged with a sharp competitiveness, as the two struggle for creative authorship of the work. Over time, Miyuki asserts her own centrality, and her radicalism lies not only in her confrontational tactics vis-à-vis Hara, but also in her deep sense of the film as a stage – and as a record of her sexual rebellion.”
Ela Bittencourt: I wonder if you identified with filmmakers such as Kazuo Hara, whose film, Extreme Private Eros (1974), is also focused on a female body.
Naomi Kawase: Hara’s film is very different from mine. I would not want to compare us, because we go in very distinct directions. In his film, there are several birth scenes in which he is seen crying. In the landscape of Japanese cinema, men are often portrayed as strong, but I do find that maleness has many vulnerabilities. In Japan, women live longer, and when partners age, women take care of men. They seem to be more tuned in to emotions, while men tend to see society more objectively. Obviously I can only speak from my experience, but that’s how I feel as a woman filmmaker.
Ela Bittencourt in conversation with Naomi Kawase3
“Shohei Imamura, Nagisa Oshima and Shinsuke Ogawa all made notable documentaries and they’re all from the 60’s generation. I feel I have a very different value system. For me it’s about the individuality of people, about pushing forward and changing the way the individual expresses themselves independently and how that individual can effect change. That effect is something I wanted to breakdown as well.”
Kazuo Hara: If you think Goodbye CP is sadistic, then is Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974 masochistic?
Ken Jacobs: Well, I think it’s a great movie, and that you’re a documentarian attached to your subject; you’re personally attached to a woman [Miyuki Takeda] who cannot be kept or contained. She’s independent, heedless, doesn’t listen or obey. She goes her own way. To take your own feelings and attach them to her – is it masochism or just fascination? In any society, she would be a human bomb.
Really? What do you mean by that?
In the early ’70s many young women had a similar strength, standing up as a backlash against the whole history of gender inequality. It didn’t seem she was especially strong back then.
To me, she’s just amazing. There’s nothing for her to grab onto, so she’s out in the world, rejecting aspects of what’s there. She’s having a baby totally by herself, gives birth unassisted. And then that final scene has such tension: she’s working as an erotic dancer, up onstage in front of an audience, which is very servile but also a mode of individual expression. She’s very good, but it’s such a bizarre situation – to be looked at, desired, recorded, but fiercely independent and apart. I’m impressed by her, maybe even afraid of her.
I felt for you, seeing through your lens, as you were in love with her.
Ken Jacobs in conversation with Kazuo Hara5
- 1. Haden Guest, “Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974”, Harvard Film Archive, 2019.
- 2. Ela Bittencourt, “She’s Come Undone: Longing and Agency in Kazuo Hara’s Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974”, cléo, 2013.
- 3. Ela Bittencourt, “Interview: Naomi Kawase”, Film Comment, 2018.
- 4. Kazuo Hara in David Wilentz, “More Freedom and More Shocking”, Brooklyn Rail, 2007.
- 5. Ken Jacobs, “Kazuo Hara by Ken Jacobs”, BOMB Magazine, 2019.