Written by: Carroll Jenkins on June 13th, 2017
Director: Bruce Le
Writer: Bruce Le
Composers: Tony Tam Jan-Hung, Simon Leung Chi-Wa
Cinematographer: Cheng Leung-On
Cast: Lily Lee Lee-Lee, Bruce Le, Kawashima Rena, Cheng Leung-On, Gam Chung-Yat, Yuen Man, Tong Yuen-Gwan, Cui Jin-Ji, Chiu Yat-Dan, Gwok Hoh Kei
The comfort girls scandal became a world-wide controversy in early 1992. Three Korean women filed suit in Japan in December 1991, around the time of the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, demanding compensation for forced prostitution. . . . On January 14, 1992, Japanese Chief Government Spokesman Koichi Kato issued an official apology saying, “We cannot deny that the former Japanese army played a role” in abducting and detaining the “comfort girls,” and “We would like to express our apologies and contrition”. . . . the Wednesday Demonstrations in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, sponsored by “The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCWDMSS)”. It was first held on January 8, 1992, when Japan’s Prime Minister, Miyazawa, visited the Republic of Korea. . . . The House of Sharing is a nursing home for living comfort women. The House of Sharing was founded in June 1992 through funds raised by Buddhist organizations and various socio-civic groups . . .
It remains a hot button issue even in recent times in this quote from the same Wikipedia source reference above. “Support in the United States continues to grow, particularly after the United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121 was passed on July 30, 2007, asking the Japanese government to redress the situation and to incorporate internationally accepted actual historical facts about this program into their educational system. In July 2012, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a strong advocate of the cause, denounced the use of the euphemism ‘comfort women’ for what should be referred to as ‘enforced sex slaves’. The Obama Administration also addressed the need for Japan to do more to address the issue. In addition to calling attention to the issue, the American memorial statues erected in New Jersey in 2010 and California in 2013 show support for what has become an international cause.”
First astonishment – it was so timely. Released on 08/28/1992, this was a rapid response to address a skeleton in the closet that had finally surfaced after all those years. In addition to Korea and the Philippines; China was severely victimized to populate the forced military brothels. It did very respectable box office for the Cathay circuit, HK $1,718,569.00.
Second astonishment – it is deadly serious in it’s condemnation of the atrocities committed. There are a few lighthearted moments that are mostly extinguished soon thereafter by the despicable actions of the Japanese and the barbarous treatment of the women. A goodly portion is presented in almost documentary and re-enactment style, as if a severely truncated version could be used as a propaganda film by KCWDMSS (see above).
Third astonishment – it is such an accomplished film by actor Bruce Le whose prior effort as writer and director was the notoriously shoddy Challenge of the Tiger. Comfort women is an epic tale whose ambition far exceeds many of the the best Cat III efforts. Eclipsed by the quality of the much earlier and somewhat similar Bamboo House Of Dolls, that brings us to . . .
Fourth astonishment – the exploitation sequences of nudity, sexual violence, torture, inhumane experimentation are quite severe, but are not presented to be salacious. Well, yes, sometimes but immediately mitigated: a woman servicing officers enjoys her position because she was told she would be enshrined as a soldier of the Empire – until she asks the wrong officer if she would indeed be honored for her ‘contribution’ to the war effort. And then . . .
Fifth astonishment – “the wrong officer” is the only film appearance of Gam Chung-Yat and his performance is truly outstanding as the gleefully sadistic maniac-in-charge. He steals every scene he’s in, even when passively sitting at a desk having a conversation. Very few actors can radiate primal evil in this fashion.
Availability – Only released on Mei Ai laser disc, this is a film certainly deserving of greater attention/appreciation/notoriety and a quality digital media release.