ZEGEN (The Pimp). “Of Imamura’s late films, Zegen is the most like his early masterworks: epic, energetic, sexually impudent, and grotesquely funny. A satire about colonialism, commerce, and carnality, Zegen is based on the true story of a hairdresser, Iheiji Muraoka (Ken Ogata), sent to Manchuria to spy on the Russian army. A born entrepreneur, Muraoka set up a chain of brothels throughout Asia —a kind of fornication franchise— and became ‘the big Boss of the South Seas.’ As Imamura portrays him, the ‘zegen’ is a decent but doltish and blindly patriotic businessman who views his development of a prostitution empire throughout Southeast Asia as the vanguard of Japan’s military adventurism: ‘For the sake of a great cause, I procure women.’”Imamura’s rambling epic is filmed entirely outside Japan in early 1900’s South East Asia. It satirizes Japanese imperialism with considerable bite, but is also very entertaining in its characters and story. Based on the autobiography of a Japanese business man named Muraoka, if follows the main character from when he jumps ship swimming ashore in Hong Kong harbour, to Manchuria where he works as a Japanese spy using prostitutes to gain information from the Russians, to Malaysia where he sets up brothels of Japanese prostitutes in a effort to further Japanese colonization in the area. Ken Ogata plays the lead, giving a nuanced performance of the man who runs brothels as part of his noble service to the Emperor. There is also a compelling love story, some very humourous satirical lines and plenty of half clothed women. What more could you want?Note: The title ‘oyabun’ is used for Muraoka often in the film. It means Boss, or Big Boss or Godfather… I think you get the picture. Trivia: Director Takashi Miike was given his first film credit, as assistant director on Zegen. He was a student at the Japan Institute of the Moving Image at the time. The Institute was founded by Imamura.
Please scroll down to choose servers and episodes.