Koji Wakamatsu’s seething United Red Army did not tempt a stateside distributor to nut up, but his new film, Caterpillar, has—coming in ‘11 from Kino Lorber, this WWII-homefront psychodrama comes front-loaded with more softcore quadriplegic bump-ugly than any movie so far in history. For that, and for being much simpler politically, it’s an easier swallow—so to speak.
Shinobu Terajima—the unforgettable heart at the center of Ryuichi Hiroki’s Vibrator and It’s Only Talk, and possibly the greatest Japanese actress of her generation—is a nondescript wife living in a rural village confronted with the return of her husband (Keijo Kasuya), sans limbs, speech and half of his face, Johnny Got His Gun-style, wounds he received after he’d ravaged and raped his way through the Sino-Japanese War. Unfortunately for her, his sex drive and erectile function is intact, and as she struggles to maintain face in the small community where her husband is an official "war god," she tries to hold onto her sanity as her husband must be fed and fucked (in multiple positions that get you thinking) and carted around like an infant. The movie is narrowly focused and arrives at a forgone sermonic yowl, but the bludgeoning critique of Japanese nationalism is as righteous as it is monosyllabic, and Terajima delivers another heart-render, a semi-bright woman lost in the fields of imperialistic hypocrisy, an ordeal she endures with every part of her body. Kasuya’s Gump-ified subtractions make their own statement, at length and in coitus, and if it’s a gimmick it’s a gimmick that sings.