aka Wife in Heat: While Husband is Away
aka Sukebe-zuma: Otto No Rusu Ni
Hisayasu Sato, 1995
Runtime: 63 min.
Format: Artsmagic DVD
Rafureshia is a very odd film viewed in the context of Sato's entire filmography. A director who normally deals with pessimistic world views and the disconnect between individuals in society, Rafureshia takes everything you think you know about the director and flips you on your head. In fact, the film is an optimistic black comedy, with very little of Sato's regular trademarks, other than the fact that despite it's lightness, a message shines through.

The plot is one of the most straightforward of all of Sato's films. The viewer is first introduced to Alisa, a young girl who is essentially imprisoned by her incestuous father on a small island. Alisa remarks that she feels dead inside, and just once she would like to see what's on the other side of the sea. Her father tells her that the only people on the other side of the sea are 'boring people doing boring things,' but his plight doesn't stop Alisa, who jumps over her fence and swims all the way to the mainland.
Meanwhile, Harumi is suffering through a family dinner with her mother and distant husband. Her mother is dissatisfied with her because after being married for five years, she still hasn't had a baby. In one of the most awkwardly hilarious scenes ever committed to a pink film, Harumi's mother jerks off Harumi's husband while Harumi plays with herself from across the table, describing to her mother what she does to her husband's "hard thing." As it appears the two woman are about to work them self into a climax, Harumi's husband stands up and says that he's going to bed.

Later, in the bedroom, Harumi strips her husband and attempts to have sex with him, but he slaps her and tells her to make it quick. She quickly works him to orgasm and he coldly turns away. Later, her mother tells her she is going to help out a woman at the woman's center, so she probably wouldn't be home until the next morning. With her husband in bed and her mother out of the picture, Harumi goes out to the red light district to "play."
While Harumi is suffering humiliation at her house, Alisa is joyfully (admittedly pensively at first) engaging in an orgy with three bums she saw on the beach. They call her "Mermaid Woman" and enjoy the sex they're gladly having. However, shortly afterward a man in a car drives by, and noticing the scene, tells the bums that Alisa is too hot for them, and knocks her out to take her with him.

Alisa's unconscious ride with the unknown man is paralleled with Harumi's joyride, where she's picked up by a truck driver, and after having sex with him, asks for money, which she promptly burns as a jest. She then walks down the street. Alisa ends up in a sort of weird sex club, where a woman wearing a bunny mask tells her that "everybody in the city works, and [she has] to work too." Next door there is a infantalist who the woman in the bunny mask tells Alisa to "punish for being bad." For Some bizarre reason, the instrument given to Alisa to punish the man is a chainsaw. In one of the most entertaining scenes in the film, Alisa is shown chasing the adult man wearing a diaper and little hat around a room while he cries "Mama," until after almost getting a chainsaw to the rear, he realizes that "she's not playing!" and runs into the room where the man that picked Alisa up and the bunny-mask woman are having sex. He yells at the woman (who, without the bunny mask on, we can see is Harumi's mother) and runs out of the room, terrified. Unsure what to do, Alisa grabs a bag with money from a table, and runs out of the apartment. It turns out that also in the bag is a tape of a politician in an uncompromising sexual position, and Harumi's mother and the man will stop at nothing to get it back.
Alisa ends up hooking up with Harumi, and after further series of misadventures, the two end up running from various forces, relying on each other for support. All the while Alisa's father has been wandering the mainland looking for her, and once he finally finds her and realizes that she doesn't obey his every wish anymore, he loses his mind and the situation ends up quite humorously (the exactitude I'll leave for the viewer). Harumi also gets her own revenge on her husband and mother, and, for what would seem to be the first time in a Sato film, the main characters end up with exactly what they want: an escape from the banality of their day to day life. The ending of the film is truly bizarre and hilarious, and fits perfectly with the insane tone the rest of the film maintains.

As obvious from the plot, Rafureshia is not half as "heavy" or "serious" as most of Sato films,and while that fact makes it an "easier" flick to watch, it's also not half as rewarding as the films you can tell Sato has poured everything into. Even in an interview about the film, Sato seems to halfheartedly be making up the answers to the questions as their asked. Also, it turns out the original screenplay came from a Manga, so that would explain some of it's bizarre, cartoon like qualities.
The film is shot in mostly medium shots, which Sato says was to keep the camera's view of all the characters objective. I'm not sure he succeeds in that respect, but in regards to the final product, it hardly matters. Rafureshia is definitely a minor film in the Sato oeuvre, but if you're in the mood for something bizarre and comedic instead of specifically relevant and heavy, Rafureshia might just suit your fancy.

Mike Kitchell, 2007