Go, Go, Second Time Virgin

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The general consensus is that Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (1969) is filmmaker Kōji Wakamatsu’s masterpiece, and with good reason. Go, Go, Second Time Virgin is at once both a pinku eiga film and an anti-pinku eiga film. While dishing out sexualized spectacle in broad modernist strokes, Wakamatsu is also critical of these sexual fantasies and their role as escapist fare.

Go, Go, Second Time Virgin epitomizes that intersection between the exploitation film and the art house picture is a way that very few films manage successfully. Go, Go, Second Time Virgin is the same kind of masterpiece as Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973), Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973), Ms. 45 (1981) and Angst (1983) wherein sleaze becomes art and vice-versa.

Wakamatsu, like his friend Nagisa Ōshima, uses the camera to take moments of violence and break it up into a sequence of disjointed, fractured images shot at all angles. The violence in Go, Go, Second Time Virgin is not to be seen or understood linearly but rather experienced as a moment of emotional trauma. And it is trauma, violent sexual trauma, that is the subject of Wakamatsu’s film.

Poppo (Mimi Kozakura) and Tsukio (Michio Akiyama) are both survivors of sexual assault that have found opposing means of coping with their trauma. Poppo internalizes her assault and focuses on her mother’s suicide, longing for her own death. As Poppo struggles with depression, Tsukio externalizes his trauma into a brutal form of vigilantism determined to dispense justice on those who have wronged him. Acts of violence committed against Poppo and Tsukio and by Tsukio appear the same, suggesting a cycle of abuse.

The fact that such cycles do exist gets to the heart of the problem with society as a whole which is by no means lost on Wakamatsu. In Go, Go, Second Time Virgin the bulk of the action plays out on the rooftop of an apartment building that is locked every night and only reopened in the morning. For those dark hours the youths in Go, Go, Second Time Virgin are cut off from society. This, an obvious metaphor, represents just how ineffective varying systems of justice and aid can be.

In Go, Go, Second Time Virgin death is the only release and it is inevitable and quick. The notion that the two protagonists are destined to die by the end of the film comes almost immediately. Wakamatsu, rather than obscure the existentialist nature of the film, treats the accompanying tropes as almost incidental. What does matter in Go, Go, Second Time Virgin is how Poppo and Tsukio feel about violence and how Wakamatsu presents the same violence.

As controversial or difficult as Go, Go, Second Time Virgin may be, it’s message and observations remain relevant and urgent. It is a beautiful film about some rather ugly truths which accounts for both its infamy and enduring cult status.